Seven months before he will retire from the Maryland Court of Appeals, Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. said Tuesday that he will join Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White LLC in August.
Murphy, 67, will leave the bench three years shy of the mandatory retirement age. He said the chance to work with his daughter, Erin Murphy, who is an associate at Silverman Thompson, pulled him in that direction.
“It isn’t anything about the court or about the procedures that drove this decision,” Murphy said in an interview Tuesday.
“I had originally planned to leave in the summer of my 69th year so that my successor would have at least a month to get ready for the fall arguments, but the opportunity to practice another two years with my daughter is something that I’m very much looking forward to.”
It is not unusual to announce a judicial retirement months in advance, according to William Reynolds, the Jacob A. France professor of judicial process at the University of Maryland School of Law. He said the early notice will give Gov. Martin O’Malley time to find a replacement.
Murphy will head the Baltimore litigation firm’s alternative dispute resolution practice and confine his state-court practice to litigation support.
He will significantly expand Silverman Thompson’s mediation efforts, which make up a small part of the work in its office, according to name partner Steven Silverman. The firm has started building out a 4,500-square-foot “state-of-the-art” mediation suite in the penthouse of its building to prepare for Murphy’s arrival, Silverman said.
“Judge Murphy is one of — if not the — top legal minds in our state and he could have chosen any law firm in Maryland,” Silverman said. “And, certainly, could have chosen to bring his daughter with him anywhere.”
The firm is “thrilled … that this is where he wants to park,” he said.
Murphy said he decided to confine his practice in Maryland courts to litigation support because he does not want his presence in a courtroom to influence the decisions made by judges. Since 1987, Murphy has coordinated the new trial judge orientation program, working with all of the newly appointed judges.
“I have a concern that if a case comes out, if I were in court and the case ended with a favorable result for my client, the adverse party might think there was some home cooking involved,” he said. “If the case came out with a favorable result for the adverse party, my client might wonder if the judge didn’t bend over backwards to show that he was impartial in a case where a former colleague was involved.”
He said it would not be worth all of the aggravation to his former colleagues or to the system.
Admirers of Murphy said his presence will be missed on the Court of Appeals.
“He was a fabulous lawyer and a terribly conscientious member of all the courts he’s served on and it’s a loss to the Court of Appeals,” said Daniel Clements, a name partner with Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins LLC in Baltimore.
“Judge Murphy will be missed because he was a true trial lawyer who became a true trial judge and never forgot what happens in a court room,” Clements said.
Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser added, “He’s going to be terribly, terribly missed…. He certainly has the admiration of his colleagues on both courts who found him a joy to work with and a real scholar.”
Krauser took over as chief judge after Murphy was elevated to the state’s top court.
Murphy, who has taught evidence at University of Baltimore School of Law since 1974 and trial practice at University of Maryland since 1984, said he hopes his new job will allow him more time to teach.
Murphy was appointed to the Baltimore County Circuit Court in 1984 and then the Court of Special Appeals in 1993, where he became chief judge in 1996.
In 2007, he was named to the Court of Appeals.
Prior to his work on the bench, Murphy practiced as a staff attorney for Legal Aid, served as an assistant state’s attorney for Baltimore City and was a partner at the Towson firm White & Murphy.