Delaware Senator concerned over Supreme Court nominee’s conviction

DOVER, Del. – Just a day after we first broke news that one of the Governor’s Supreme Court picks was convicted of alcohol-related reckless driving, a Delaware State Senator is now speaking out to say he will not support his confirmation.

According to court documents, N. Christopher Griffiths was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol back on January 30th. Griffiths pleaded guilty in the Court of Common Pleas on March 21, 2023 to the lesser reckless driving charge.

As a result, Griffiths was ordered to pay a $100 fine. He was also sentenced to 30 days in jail with the jail-time suspended for 11 months of probation during which he must complete an alcohol rehabilitation program.

Now, Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn is speaking out, raising concerns over Griffiths’ nomination.

“This is the state’s highest court,” Sen. Pettyjohn emphasized. “The people of Delaware, the businesses that are incorporated, expect individuals in that court to have impeccable judgment, and that’s one of the hallmarks of Delaware right now is our judicial system. To have that individual still in consideration for the Supreme Court, here in Delaware, is concerning for me and at this point in time I’m not inclined to support the nomination, for that reason, and for other reasons as well.”

Sen. Pettyjohn then directed his focus to Governor John Carney, saying that it’s interesting that Griffiths was even nominated considering the fact that if he’s confirmed he would be on probation sitting on the state’s highest court.

“It’s a very interesting scenario that the Governor did choose to nominate somebody who, if confirmed by the Senate, would be on probation as they were sitting on the Supreme Court,” Sen. Pettyjohn said. “I think it’s a mistake. An offense like that, if one of us in the Senate were to do that, there would very likely be an ethics hearing regarding our conduct.”

A reason that is also concerning, according to Sen. Pettyjohn, is the fact that Griffiths has never served as a judge before.

“He’s been a practicing attorney; however, he’s never sat on a bench and so to be instantly elevated to the highest court in the State of Delaware that’s not something that’s very common and it’s something that we don’t necessarily like to see,” Sen. Pettyjohn stated. “There’s no way for us to look back on some of his rulings and see what his judicial line of thoughts are, to see whether or not the rulings that he had made, if they were overturned by the Supreme Court, we don’t have a whole lot of information as to how he would treat cases.”

Given that the nomination comes just a couple of weeks after the conviction, we reached out to the Governor’s Office who issued the following statement, calling what happened a “serious mistake” but at the same time praising Griffiths’ legal work and accomplishments.

“Chris Griffiths is an extraordinarily talented lawyer who is eminently qualified to serve as a Justice on Delaware’s Supreme Court,” explained Emily Hershman with Governor Carney’s Office. “He’s been a partner at a major Wilmington law firm for the past six years, and a leader in the community. Chris made one serious mistake but had no similar conduct in his past, which was an important consideration. The Governor has full confidence in Chris’ ability to serve the State of Delaware with distinction.”

Our news department has reached out to Griffiths who has yet to respond to multiple requests for comment.

We also reached out to Senate Democratic leadership for their reaction. Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola issued a statement not directly addressing Griffiths’ conviction, but stressing that he and his colleagues will carefully consider his nomination.

“The Senate takes its Constitutional responsibility seriously,” Sen. Sokola stated. “We will continue to carefully consider and fully vet the background, experience and qualifications of all gubernatorial nominees that appear before us.”

Griffiths was nominated earlier this month to serve as Supreme Court Justice alongside the Honorable Abigail LeGrow. If confirmed, the two nominees will take the seat formerly held by Justice Tamika R. Montgomery-Reeves and the seat to be opened upon the retirement of Justice James T. Vaughn, Jr..

Griffiths is a partner at Connolly Gallagher LLP focusing on administrative and government law; corporate and commercial litigation; bankruptcy law; and general litigation.

Before entering private practice, Griffiths served as a wealth manager for the Wilmington Trust Company and the Vanguard Group. Chris received his J.D. from Villanova University School of Law. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware and Salesianum High School.

Griffiths’ confirmation will be considered sometime within the next month as Senate lawmakers return for the rest of session.

Categories: Delaware, Local News, Local Politics