John C. Carney, Jr. (D-DE).
John C. Carney, Jr. (D-DE). (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Gov. John Carney on Monday nominated Gary F. Traynor, a Sussex County public defender and a former litigator with Prickett, Jones & Elliott, to become the next justice on the Delaware Supreme Court.

Traynor, a registered Republican from Rehoboth Beach, spent much of his early career as a general trial attorney in Prickett Jones’ Wilmington and Dover offices, where he primarily handled criminal defense and personal injury cases. In 2000, he switched to corporate litigation in Prickett Jones’ Wilmington office and served as the firm’s managing director from 2005 to 2007.

Since 2015, Traynor has worked as an assistant public defender in the Superior Court for Sussex County, representing poor defendants accused of felony-level crimes. He holds an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and a law degree from Widener University Delaware Law School.

Announcing the nomination Monday afternoon, Carney called Traynor “one of Delaware’s sharpest legal minds” and said his experience would serve him well on the state’s high court.

“I am convinced that Gary has the judgement and thoughtfulness necessary to serve on the Supreme Court, and I look forward to the Delaware Senate considering his nomination,” Carney said in a statement.

Reached by phone Monday, Traynor declined to comment on his nomination.

If confirmed, Traynor would fill the seat left vacant by former Justice Randy J. Holland, Delaware’s longest-serving Supreme Court justice who retired in March.

The selection of Traynor is Carney’s first high-profile judicial nomination since taking office in January and the first since an unprecedented reshuffling of the judiciary, which took place under former Gov. Jack A. Markell. Markell, who held office from 2009 to 2017, appointed or reappointed all five members of both the Delaware Court of Chancery and the state Supreme Court.

Judicial selections are subject to Senate approval, and nominees must survive a vote before the powerful Senate Executive Committee before reaching the full chamber for final confirmation. However, such votes are considered noncontroversial, and nominees usually enjoy broad support from lawmakers.

It was not immediately clear Monday when the Senate would meet to consider Traynor’s nomination.

Delaware law mandates that the state maintain a 3-2 balance between the major political parties on the bench, and tradition dictates that each of Delaware’s three counties is represented on the court. Traynor’s selection fits both the political and geographic requirements.

Michael Hanrahan, director of Prickett Jones’ commercial litigation practice, praised the nomination and said Traynor’s “unique background” makes him particularly well-suited to the court.

“He brings a lot of knowledge … not only in substantive issues of law, but also in evidentiary and procedural areas,” Hanrahan said. “I think Gary will be very helpful because he provides expertise in many different areas.”