Court of Appeals Judge William Murphy was celebrated after his last case call



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

On November 8, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge William Murphy was the presiding judge over a set of cases in the Grand Rapids courtroom. What made this unusual in Murphy’s 30-year career of service is that it was for the last time.

By Michigan law, the former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals (COA) cannot run for re-election when his term ends on December 31, because he is past the age of 70.

Sitting with Judge Murphy on the Nov. 7-8 panel was Judge Peter O’Connell, a Fourth District judge working out of Lansing who is in the same situation. (Judge Jane Beckering rounded out the panel.)

So after conferencing on Wednesday, Judges Murphy and O’Connell joined a courtroom full of well-wishers for a celebration of their service to the people of Michigan.

Judge Murphy’s influence has even extended beyond his home state; he was the president of the national Council of Chief Judges of the State Courts of Appeal in 2017.

That is just one of the many, many contributions Bill Murphy has made to the courts and to his community.

He attended Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, where he met his wife Paula, but then transferred to Michigan State University to get his degree. That was followed by receiving his J.D. from Wayne State University Law School and serving as a law clerk to a COA?judge in Detroit. Then, rather than returning to his native Illinois, Judge Murphy chose to settle in Grand Rapids.

He worked briefly for Rhoades McKee, then started Murphy, Burns and McInerney, also serving during that time as president of the Michigan Association for Justice.

After his appointment to the COA in 1988, Judge Murphy ran successfully five times (including having to run in 1988).

Judge O’Connell has been on the COA?since 1994, having previously served as a district court judge and a chief assistant prosecutor. He is actively opposed to the ageism inherent in Michigan law preventing him from running again, and at Wednesday’s reception vowed to keep up his fight.

Though it is clear that the experience and in-depth knowledge of both judges would make them valuable past the age of 70, Judge Murphy said that now his retirement is a reality, he is not uncomfortable with it. At the same time, he intends to continue to contribute to the world, and his wife vowed that she will make sure of that.


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