‘Patience, passion and commitment’: McGiffin sworn in as Family Court judge

DOVER — He embodies key qualities needed to be an effective Family Court judge — compassion, temperament and legal expertise, according to Gov. Jack Markell.

Long-time Dover resident James G. McGiffin Jr. is perfect for uncovering and administering justice when “strong emotions are involved in resolving a family dispute,” the governor said of his choice to fill a Delaware Family Court seat in Kent County.

The nomination was approved by the state Senate on Oct. 13.

With a passionate interest in determining an optimal resolution for family matters, Judge McGiffin is a natural fit bent on delivering justice from the bench, his supporters agreed.

Kent County Family Court Judge James McGriffin. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Kent County Family Court Judge James G. McGiffin Jr. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Speaking at his swearing in ceremony on Oct. 23 in Courtroom One at the Kent County Courthouse, Bridget Doyle McGiffin promised that her dad would deliver “patience, passion and commitment every day without fail,” thanks to a balanced moral compass.

Added Senate Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins, “Jim’s strongest focus has always been on his family and he is of course devoted to them.

Family Court Chief Judge Michael Newell lauded the newest judge for “his humility and sincere interest in other people, qualities that will serve him well on this court.”

Judge James McGiffin arrives at Family Court after stints as Counsel to the Majority Caucus in the Delaware State Senate, Delaware State Bar Association president and a Senior Staff Attorney with Community Legal Aid Society Inc.. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Judge James McGiffin arrives at Family Court after stints as Counsel to the Majority Caucus in the Delaware State Senate, Delaware State Bar Association president and a Senior Staff Attorney with Community Legal Aid Society Inc.. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The hour-long investiture concluded with Judge McGiffin’s son Connor performing “America the Beautiful” with Bob Frazier as the audience sang along.

A trained bass player — upright and electric — and Dover Symphony member has produced two albums Judge McGiffin said music “allows me to completely relax. If I didn’t have an outlet and took the work home with me and dwelled on it, I don’t think I could have made it all these years.”

Coming home to his spouse Kathleen eased stress as well.

“She has taught me about life, she has taught me about love,” Judge McGiffin said. “She is the perfect partner for me.”

Also, “My parents taught me the importance of loving all people and serving others.”

Plenty to do

Sitting behind his new desk earlier this week, Judge Newell pointed to a four-inch thick case file that typifies the complex nature of Family Court matters, often involving child neglect, custody, and support, and divorce proceedings, among others.

While describing his predecessor – retiring Judge William J. Walls Jr. – as a “model of efficiency” for closing out all his ongoing cases at the end of September, Judge McGiffin said he had hundreds of matters awaiting him upon arrival last week.

“Every case has lots of motions, there is a constant influx of motions, hundreds of petitions to consider,” he said.

Serving as a Family Court commissioner from 1994 to 1998, Judge McGiffin said he worked through a high volume docket and there was “not much opportunity for relationship building.”

Following the accolades of his arrival were expressed freely by friends, family, and colleagues, Judge McGiffin ultimately aims to give everyone who comes before him in Family Court a fair shake.

“I hope that people will say that they were heard here, win or lose,” he said. “I want them to walk away feeling that their [side of the story] was heard.”

Judge McGiffin arrives at Family Court after stints as Counsel to the Majority Caucus in the Delaware State Senate, Delaware State Bar Association president and a Senior Staff Attorney with Community Legal Aid Society Inc. He worked for CLASI for more than 27 years in various capacities, including Executive Director from 1998 to 2005. Jude McGiffin was a Dover City Councilman from 2006 to 2011.

Collaborating with Kent County Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young (who authors the script and spoke at his investiture), Judge McGiffin has orchestrated the biennial musical comedy performed by attorneys to benefit the Combined Campaign for Justice. Proceeds from his two albums –  “Courthouse Blues: Music from the Delaware Bar” and “Courthouse Blues: Remanded” – went to CLASI.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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