The Providence Journal reports today that Superior Court Judge Alice B. Gibney was nominated by Governor Carcieri Thursday to serve as Superior Court presiding justice, succeeding Justice Joseph F. Rodgers Jr., who retired in August.
“Justice Gibney is admired and respected by her judicial colleagues and by all those who come before her courtroom,” said Carcieri. “Considered a conscientious and gifted trial judge known for her ability to manage complex litigation and high case volume, Justice Gibney is well suited to serve as Presiding Justice of the Rhode Island Superior Court. I am confident she will serve with honor and distinction.”
On her nomination, Gibney said Thursday: “I’m very honored and I’m gratified. I worked for two exemplary presiding justices in Anthony Giannini and Joe Rodgers and I would certainly hope to emulate their best qualities. Presiding Justice Rodgers has been not only a wonderful colleague but a wonderful role model. If confirmed, I would look forward to the unique challenges of this position.”
Gibney, 62, spent much of her career concentrating on civil cases — many of them medical malpractice lawsuits — but she also presided over a protracted case in 2005 of two sisters who clashed over who should be in charge of their mother’s assets after the now 92-year-old woman, Laurette Borduas Eifrig, was declared incompetent to care for herself.
Even though she rarely handled criminal matters, it was Gibney who signed the warrant for Warwick police to search the home of 15-year-old Craig Price in 1989. That warrant led to Price’s prosecution as a serial killer, after the police learned he murdered four of his Warwick neighbors.
When Gibney was appointed to the Superior Court in 1983, she said in an interview that being a judge was the only thing she’s ever wanted to be. A West Warwick native born to schoolteachers, Gibney graduated from Rhode Island College in 1969 and went on to Catholic University School of Law in Washington, D.C., where she earned her law degree in 1972.
She worked as a law clerk for Superior Court Judge Florence K. Murray and later practiced as an associate with Anderson, Henning & Anderson, a Providence law firm. In 1978, she became assistant U.S. Attorney, but moved back to private practice — this time with Boyer, Reynolds & DeMarco — after a year in the post. She served as a Workers’ Compensation Court Commissioner for two years before being named to the Superior Court bench in 1984.
In a public hearing regarding the appointment, her predecessor, Rodgers, told the Judicial Nominating Commission that Gibney was “the most respected and beloved” justice in the court, in recommending her to the panel.
Though Gibney is caring and “has a wonderful way with people,” she is “at the same time, not a pushover,” said criminal defense attorney Lise Gescheidt, who has known Gibney for close to 30 years.
“She’s a wonderful jurist,” Gescheidt said. “She explains things to juries in a very simple way, a direct way and puts people at ease. I think juries respect her. She doesn’t speak down to anyone. She is wonderful with the lawyers and understanding, but runs her courtroom as she believes it’s appropriate to be run.”
While the General Assembly must still confirm Justice Gibney, approval should be swift and unanimous.