James T. Giles is a former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, serving on the federal bench for almost 29 years. At Blank Rome, Judge Giles focuses his commercial litigation practice on alternative dispute resolution matters, assisting with trial and appellate briefings, advocacy, and strategies. He is also active in pro bono service and diversity and inclusion initiatives, both within the Firm and legal industry at large.
Before he joined the federal bench in January 1980, Judge Giles practiced at an Am Law 100 firm in Philadelphia, where he was the first African-American lawyer to join the firm and the first person of color to be elected to the firm’s partnership. Prior to that role, he served as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, 4th Regional Office, in Philadelphia.
Having been appointed by President Jimmy Carter, Judge Giles was confirmed by the Senate in November 1979. He began his judicial duties on January 3, 1980, and served as chief judge of the Eastern District bench for seven years, from 1999 until 2006. In 2000, he received the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Distinguished Jurist Award. He retired from the bench in October 2008, and returned to private practice.
Judge Giles handled a docket spanning the spectrum of civil and criminal cases typical of a busy metropolitan district court. In terms of authorized judicial officers, the Eastern District is one of the nation’s largest district courts. He was appointed by the Multi-Litigation Panel to manage, for trial readiness and to attempt to settle, significant MDL cases, among them In re Asbestos Products Liability Litigation, which initially involved more than 13 million asbestos cases, and In re Air Crash near Peggy’s Cove, which involved the Swiss Air airline crash over international waters near Nova Scotia in September 1998. Other complex mass tort class actions over which he presided and helped resolve include In re Asbestos School Litigation, which was national in scope.
In addition to administering his regular and MDL calendars, beginning in 1990, he was regularly specially designated by chief judges of the Third Circuit to preside as a visiting judge for the District Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which had persistent civil and criminal docket backlogs due to unfilled judicial vacancies.
Outside the Firm
Judge Giles and his late wife, Carol, have two children, one an entrepreneur, and the other an elementary school teacher, as well as three grandchildren of grade school age.
Judge Giles enjoys theater and golf. He is a member of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Alpha Boule, and Delta Upsilon Fraternity.