Founding Partner William H. "Billy" Murphy, Jr. Receives 2012 Clarence Darrow Award For Legal Excellence
This national award is widely considered among the most prestigious recognitions of excellence in trial law, and celebrates the legacy of Clarence Darrow, one of the greatest criminal defense attorneys of the early 20th century. Known for championing the rights of the underprivileged and underrepresented, Darrow captivated juries and judges alike with his moving presentations and oral arguments. A perfect storm of talent, creativity and legal brilliance, Darrow would go on to ensure that no client of his ever received the death penalty.
A legal powerhouse in his own right, Mr. Murphy, who served as a trial judge on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City from 1980 to 1983, exemplifies the power of courtroom persuasion. Since opening his doors to the Baltimore community in 1970, he has represented clients from all backgrounds, securing unprecedented victories in seemingly impossible cases.
He is also lauded for his incredible effectiveness as a cross-examiner. In defense of the notorious Black Panther party in 1970 – his very first case - Mr. Murphy's devastating cross-examinations of the Chief of Police of Baltimore and the head of the Baltimore FBI earned him his first courtroom victory.
Mr. Murphy has long been long known for challenging the needlessly orthodox trial strategies that unfortunately typify the legal profession. "A trial lawyer who isn't able to use the full spectrum of techniques has arbitrarily limited himself. If a trial judge pushes you, you've got to push back," he says.
His continued success speaks for itself. In more than 350 state court jury trials, Murphy averaged 91 % acquittals; and in the federal courts, Mr. Murphy has won approximately 45% of his jury trials — four times the national average of 11%. His spectacular victories for plaintiffs in civil cases include a $276 million verdict against First Union National Bank; a $185 million settlement against Ernst & Young for negligent business advice to national clothing chain MerryGoRound; a $55 million settlement against Constellation Energy on behalf of Maryland homeowners whose water system had been contaminated with coal ash; a $44 million verdict in a police brutality case that left his client a paraplegic; and a $34 million verdict for 20 restaurant workers poisoned by carbon monoxide.
From 2002 to 2004, Mr. Murphy successfully defended Microsoft in federal court in Seattle against two employment class actions brought by the legendary Johnnie Cochran and famed attorney Willie Gary, who sued it for a combined $8.5 billion. Also during this time, Mr. Murphy obtained a defense verdict in federal court for Johnson & Johnson in New Orleans, which saved it billions of dollars after it pulled its blockbuster drug Propulsid from the market because of cardiac side effects. From 2006 to 2011, Mr. Murphy successfully defended Scottsdale Insurance Company in state court in New Orleans where it was sued for $4 billion in a lead paint class action.
Mr. Murphy's spectacular victories in criminal cases include the internationally publicized acquittal of fight promoter Don King, who was charged with defrauding Lloyd's of London in an insurance claim King made for reknowned prizefighter Julio Ceasar Chavez; and his not guilty by reason of insanity verdict for Charles Hopkins, who was charged with murdering a member of the Baltimore City Council while attempting to assassinate the Mayor of Baltimore City in a case which riveted the State of Maryland.
The high caliber of his work has not gone unnoticed. Among his over 100 awards, Mr. Murphy was named in February 2012 as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in America by the National Trial Lawyers. He has also been the recipient of the Charles Hamilton Houston Award for Lifetime Achievement in Litigation from the University of Baltimore School of Law, the 25 Smartest People in Baltimore award from Baltimore Magazine, and the Thurgood Marshall Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is a life member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the premiere organization for advocacy and training in the legal community, and a former member of its Board of Directors; and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Maryland Association of Justice (formerly the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association).
The Clarence Darrow Award was presented to Mr. Murphy and attorney W. Mark Lanier during the Mass Torts Made Perfect conference, an annual affair that draws in over 500 plaintiffs' attorneys from across the nation.
The ceremony included a keynote address by James Carville, a political strategist, and a former senior advisor to President Clinton. The award was presented by conference host, founder, and legal powerhouse Mike Papantonio, who spoke of each attorney's trailblazing successes and future promise.
On his receipt of the honor, Mr. Murphy said, "Clarence Darrow, and the many attorneys who have been recognized through this award, represent a standard of excellence all trial attorneys should seek to meet. I am honored and proud to be considered among these men and women, and hope younger attorneys challenge themselves enough to push that bar even higher."