Among New Jersey’s revered lawyers, no one takes precedence over John Gibbons. He is a former State Bar president, served as a judge on the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for 20 years and manages to be scholarly, patrician and liberal, at the same time. His Newark firm is one of the state’s richest, and its institutionalized pro bono program is a model of big firm social activism.

But icons, like great wines, don’t always travel well. In an opinion made public last week in federal court in Wilmington, Del., U.S. District Judge Roderick McKelvie called Gibbons slow and ineffectual, and he sliced more than $1.7 million from Gibbons’ request for $2.07 million in fees as the Chapter 11 trustee for Marvel Entertainment Group Inc.