In Memoriam: Judge Joseph F. Murphy, Jr.
By MSBA staff
The Maryland State Bar Association joins the legal community in mourning the loss of a tireless advocate, respected jurist, and educator, with the passing of Judge Joseph F. Murphy, Jr. at the age of 78 on Wednesday, July 27th. Judge Murphy was the former Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, retiring from the bench in 2011, to return to private practice with his daughter Erin Murphy at the law firm of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White.
His career spanned more than 50 years, and included service at Maryland Legal Aid and the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office. After spending time in the public sector, Judge Murphy started his own firm, White & Murphy and gained prominence as a criminal defense attorney. In 1984, he was appointed by Governor Harry Hughes to the bench in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. From there, Judge Murphy would go on to serve in the highest levels of Maryland’s judiciary, including the Court of Special Appeals, where he was appointed chief judge from 1996 to 2007, and Maryland’s highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals from 2007 to 2011.
Judge Murphy’s contributions to the profession not only include his work as an attorney and jurist, but also his commitment to serving students and lawyers as an educator. “Joe Murphy was a lawyer’s lawyer, and a judge’s judge”, said Judge Paul Grimm, of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. “He was a gifted teacher who generously shared his encyclopedic knowledge of law with law students, lawyers and fellow judges.” Judge Murphy taught evidence at the University of Baltimore Law School for forty-seven years, and taught trial practice at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School Law for forty years.
Through his teaching and mentorship, Judge Murphy helped shape generations of law students, lawyers and judges. Having authored five editions of the Maryland Evidence Handbook, Judge Murphy’s published work has served Maryland’s attorneys for over thirty years making him one of Maryland’s foremost experts in evidence, trial practice and appellate advocacy. Judge Grimm reflected on the impact of Judge Murphy’s career: “He was a role model for thousands of us, and even though he seemed to know everybody, he always made you feel like he was happy to know you as well. He leaves behind him a void that will not soon be filled.”
In addition to his many accomplishments and his distinguished career, Judge Murphy was a longtime member of the MSBA. He was the recipient of the MSBA’s 1990 Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award, the Maryland Bar Foundation 1994 Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Professional Competence, the Maryland Access to Justice Commission’s 2012 Judge of the Year Award, and the Maryland Bar Foundation’s 2012 H. Vernon Eney Award.
Judge Murphy was born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on January 9, 1944. He met and fell in love with JoAnn Cechin in high school and the two married in 1966 after he received his undergraduate degree from Boston College in 1965. Judge Murphy went on to earn his law degree from University of Maryland School of Law in 1969. He is survived by his daughter, who is chief counsel for the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office; a grandson, Finley Ehman, a sophomore at St. Paul’s School for Boys; and a granddaughter, Ellery Ehman, a freshman at the University of South Carolina.
In honor of his dedication to the profession, education, and justice, a group of his close friends have established an endowed scholarship in Judge Murphy’s name at the Carey School of Law.