M/sunny
47°
M/sunny
Hi 46° | Lo 18°

Public Defender Named to Vt. Court

Norwich Resident Kevin Griffin Appointed by Shumlin to Judgeship

Defense attorney Kevin Griffin presents a case at Windsor Superior Court in May 2011.
(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Defense attorney Kevin Griffin presents a case at Windsor Superior Court in May 2011. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

Kevin Griffin, who earned a reputation as one of Vermont’s top defense attorneys while serving for three decades as Windsor County’s head public defender, was named a superior court judge yesterday by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Griffin, a Norwich resident who owns a private practice in White River Junction, will initially preside in Chittenden County, Shumlin said. (Judges in Vermont rotate to different courthouses during their appointments.)

“What I hope to bring to the bench is not just an ethic of hard work and understanding of the cases and rules, (but) a sense of compassion for the litigants — that’s the most important thing about being a judge,” Griffin, 55, said in an interview yesterday. “People are going to court with their problems, hoping for a settlement, or justice, and the judge is the face of the court.”

Shumlin yesterday cited Griffin’s extensive work in both criminal and family law, as well as his work outside the judiciary: Griffin served for 15 years on the Woodstock School Board (Griffin’s children attended Woodstock schools) and currently serves on the board of the Hartford Dismas House, which provides housing and services to recently released inmates.

“Kevin’s extensive litigation background in family and criminal law, as well as his 15 years on the local school board and other civic contributions ensure he brings broad experience to the court,” Shumlin said. “His intelligence, compassion, and firm sense of fairness will make him a strong addition to the judiciary.”

Griffin began his career working at U.S. Rep Peter Welch’s former law firm, and has been the top public defender in Windsor County for decades, representing clients charged with murder or other serious crimes, including Sharon arsonist Cheryle Potwin, who was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, and Springfield, Vt. resident Kyle Bolaski, who was convicted of murder in 2011 after unsuccessfully arguing that he acted in self-defense.

Griffin received an undergraduate degree from Rutgers University, and his law degree from the New England College of Law.

The county’s longtime top prosecutor, Windsor County State’s Attorney Robert Sand, said in an interview that Griffin was unfailingly dedicated to his clients.

“Kevin is extremely consistent in temperament, is very experienced handling many substantial criminal cases, and he’s excellent at identifying the legal issues presented,” Sand said. “There are places in this state where prosecutors and the chief public defender butt heads quite a bit. We’ve been lucky for decades in this county to have Kevin. He’s a great person to have as an adversary, because you fight about the things worth fighting about, and not the stupid stuff.”

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.