For well over 70 years, the Murphy name in Baltimore has been synonymous with legal advocacy, tenacious representation, and a commitment to fighting for justice-values that continue to drive our firm’s work.
As we grow nationally, our rich history has continued to serve as our guide. Each attorney at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy has had a personal, formative experience with the law that helped shape their view of what it means to be a great trial attorney. It is this collective legacy that we strive to honor every day.
We proudly trace our roots back to 1948, when Judge William H. Murphy, Sr., the founder of our firm, began practicing in the Cherry Hill neighborhood of Baltimore.
As an African American born into the Jim Crow South, his desire to enter the field of law was met with great scrutiny and outright opposition. A particular example of this came when Judge Murphy, Sr. was deciding between acceptances from the University of Maryland School of Law (UMD) in Baltimore and Harvard Law School. Unexpectedly, he got an offer from the Dean of UMD-an avid supporter of segregation. The Dean said that he would pay for the young Murphy Sr.’s tuition at Harvard in order to avoid having any black students at his school.
Unsurprisingly, this was the deciding factor for Judge Murphy Sr. back in 1939. Under court order, he became the third African American to be admitted to the University of Maryland School of Law. This is just one example of the Murphy fighting spirit that continues to defy legal injustices today.
Judge Murphy, Sr. would spend the next 22 years building his practice as an attorney, litigating cases in the fields of workers’ compensation, family law, and criminal law while acting as a community organizer with an active role in local and national politics.
In 1970, he was elected judge of the Municipal Court of Baltimore City, now the District Court of Maryland, a move representative of Judge Murphy, Sr.’s commitment to the Baltimore community and public service. It was at this time that his practice was taken up by his son, William H. “Billy” Murphy, Jr., who leads Murphy, Falcon & Murphy as a partner to this day.
As a young attorney, Judge Murphy, Jr. built the firm’s criminal defense practice in Baltimore City, gaining a reputation for eloquence and captivating arguments at trial. A series of notorious cases pushed young Murphy into the spotlight, giving his firm the resources and recognition it needed to grow.
In his first courtroom victory, Judge Murphy, Jr. successfully represented the Black Panther Party in a First Amendment rights case, removing an injunction on the distribution of a newspaper featuring controversial Party-related content. In 1973, Judge Murphy, Jr. successfully represented two individuals accused of the largest bank robbery in United States history at the time (a staggering $545,000). The case, and Judge Murphy, Jr., received national publicity.
Perhaps Judge Murphy, Jr.’s most noteworthy case of the 1970s was the defense of Charles A. Hopkins, who entered City Hall in April of 1976 with the intent of murdering then-mayor Donald Schaefer. Instead, the defendant killed one city councilman, caused a fatal heart attack in another, and injured a mayoral aide. In his defense, Judge Murphy, Jr. turned the jury’s attention to the bigger picture, arguing at trial that Hopkin’s actions were driven by social inequalities. He further argued that growing up in a poor and black city that was oppressive for those who weren’t white and came from low-income families created deeply-rooted inequalities and led to mental instability in his client.
After hearing Judge Murphy, Jr.’s compelling arguments, the jury found Hopkins not guilty by reason of insanity. The verdict shocked Baltimore, dividing the city along racial lines, and encouraged Maryland legislature to review existing criminal laws for all further state cases.
Discouraged by the lack of black appointments in the Baltimore courts, Judge Murphy, Jr. gave up his successful law practice to become the judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in 1980. After three years on the bench, he made an unsuccessful run for Baltimore mayor against incumbent Donald Schaefer.
Yet he took the results in stride, heading back to the law practice he had established in the 1970s to build upon his reputation as one of the most successful Baltimore trial attorneys.
Over the next three decades, the firm grew dramatically, adding a stable of talented attorneys to the team’s office in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore and taking on cases that built the firm’s reputation as a strong courtroom fighter.
Judge Murphy, Jr. long considered Richard Falcon a trusted business advisor, co-counsel, and friend as the two worked on many cases throughout the 1970s. Yet it wasn’t until 1986 that they formally became partners under the name Murphy & Falcon.
Falcon is a respected legal scholar in his own right. After receiving his J.D. from the University of Florida Levin School of Law and working briefly as a tax and securities lawyer for Sutherland Asbill in Atlanta, he returned to Baltimore. In 1972, his work as a civil rights advocate and attorney successfully ended segregation within the public school system of Prince George’s County-the thirteenth largest school district in the country at the time. Just one year later, he became the youngest tenured Professor of Law at the University of Maryland.
More recently, Falcon played a key role defending Steele Software Systems in a 2002 case of breach of contract with First Union Bank (now Wachovia). The resulting verdict, $276 million in Steele’s favor, was one of the largest in Maryland history at the time. Falcon also helped successfully resolve a carbon monoxide case that left 20 restaurant workers with brain damage, a win that brought $34 million to the victims.
The firm continued to build its familial legacy in Baltimore with the addition of Judge Murphy, Jr.’s oldest son, Hassan Murphy, who took on the role of managing partner in 1997. Both lawyers led a series of cases representing boxing promoter Don King and his production company. These cases made sports history and landed King and his attorneys on the cover page of the New York Times’ Sports section.
Hassan Murphy came from a commercial background, after spending years as an attorney at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, a New York-based law firm focusing on international transactions. His vision has powered the firm’s growth as a nationally-recognized leader in complex corporate litigation. Murphy, Falcon & Murphy has served as counsel for such international companies as Microsoft, H&R Block, and Johnson & Johnson.
Despite the firm’s expansion, our enduring commitment to provide clients in Baltimore and beyond with the personal attention and tireless resolve remains the long-standing Murphy, Falcon & Murphy legacy.