The Murnaghan Fellowship allows a recent law graduate who has completed a judicial clerkship to spend a year engaging in appellate advocacy in the areas of civil rights and poverty law.
How the Fellowship Works
The Fellow works at the Public Justice Center (PJC), a nonprofit organization based in Baltimore, Maryland. PJC's Appellate Advocacy Project has achieved substantial success in advocating for poor and disadvantaged persons in state and federal appellate courts. The Murnaghan Fellow works with other lawyers in the Appellate Project to ensure that cases with civil rights and poverty law implications are litigated effectively and receive a full hearing. Depending on the case, the Fellow serves as lead counsel, submits briefs as amicus curiae ("friend of the court"), or assists existing appellate counsel.
Appellate decisions have broad impact, determining the law for all within the court's jurisdiction. Appellate advocacy therefore represents an important opportunity to achieve positive legal change and to prevent adverse legal change in a systemic fashion. The Murnaghan Fellow assists the Appellate Project at PJC in identifying cases that have the potential for systemic impact on poor and disadvantaged people.
Past Murnaghan Fellows have authored briefs in the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Court of Appeals of Maryland, among other courts. Fellows have participated in cases on a diverse range of legal issues, from the interpretation of Maryland's employment discrimination statute, to the associational rights of public housing tenants, to the rights of parents with disabilities to raise their children. Of particular note, all of the Murnaghan Fellows to date have contributed substantially to PJC's Civil Right to Counsel Project, through which PJC has sought to persuade the Maryland courts to recognize a right to counsel for indigent persons in certain civil cases.
Past Fellows have had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the most distinguished members of the Maryland Bar, including Stephen H. Sachs, former Attorney General of Maryland, and E. Clinton Bamberger, Jr., former national director of the Legal Services Program at the Office of Economic Opportunity and former dean of the Catholic University School of Law. The Fellowship provides a rich opportunity for learning and professional growth.
Selection of the Murnaghan Fellow is made jointly by the Public Justice Center and the Fellowship Application Committee.