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Get to Know a Judge: Thomas Ambro, A Voice for Liberalism, Bankruptcy

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 27, 2015 3:57 PM

Judge Thomas Ambro joined the Third Circuit in 1999, as a Clinton appointee. A graduate of Georgetown University for both undergrad and law school, he previously worked in the law firm of Richards, Layton & Finger for 34 years.

In private practice, Ambro focused on bankruptcy and business law. On the bench, he has become a reliable voice for liberalism on a wide range of social and civil rights issues.

A Liberal Voice on the Third Circuit

Ambro has been a consistently liberal voice on the bench since his appointment. For example, Judge Ambro wrote the opinion in U.S. v. Gunter which held that judges must treat crack cocaine sentencing guidelines as advisory, not binding.

Ambro also authored the opinion in FAIR v. Rumsfeld, the 2004 case in which law schools challenged the requirement that they allow military recruiters access to their campuses and students. The schools had argued that the military, which forbade gay and lesbian service members under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, violated their First Amendment rights by forcing them to express a message they objected to. Ambro agreed with the schools, though the his ruling was unanimously reversed by SCOTUS.

Currently, Ambro is deciding a case regarding NYPD surveillance of Muslim organizations. According to The New York Times, during oral arguments Ambro compared the broad surveillance to "a decision to pursue all Catholics or Baptists while investigating abortion clinic violence, instead of focusing on specific suspects."

Business and Bankruptcy (Theirs, not His)

Despite being better known for the opinions above, Ambro's expertise is solidly rooted in business law. For 20 years Ambro was the chair of the Delaware Bar's Committee on the Uniform Commercial Code. He also chaired the ABA's Business Law section and edited The Business Lawyer, focused on -- you guessed it -- business law.

Ambro's also an expert on business law's twin sister, bankruptcy, serving on the Board of the National Bankruptcy Conference and having a summer fellowship with the Delaware Bankruptcy Court named in his honor. Several of his less famous but still important decisions dealt with bankruptcy issues.

Want to know more judges? Stay tuned for more of FindLaw's new regular feature, Get to Know a Judge and follow us on Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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