About Us


Since 2000, Murnaghan Fellows have given voice to the underrepresented in federal and state appellate courts in cases raising issues of profound importance to people and communities affected by poverty and discrimination.

Our fellows come from around the country, bringing with them a deep commitment to practicing law in the public interest. Each fellow joins the staff of the Public Justice Center (PJC) in Baltimore, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that focuses on systemic change for people who live in poverty and face racial injustice and structural inequities. During a one-year term within the PJC's Appellate Advocacy Project, the Fellow authors briefs and presents arguments in high-impact cases in the appellate courts.

Since the establishment of the Fellowship in 2001, our fellows have briefed and argued hundreds of cases, touching on an extraordinary range of issues. Murnaghan Fellows have advanced the reform of the criminal justice system; ensured redress for housing and employment discrimination, wage theft, and abusive debt collection practices; expanded access to counsel; protected the rights of immigrants and parents with disabilities; and more.

Judge Murnaghan

The Murnaghan Fellowship celebrates the legacy of Judge Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr., (1920 - 2000), who is regarded as one of the most influential judges in the history of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Over a 21-year period, Judge Murnaghan wrote 505 opinions for the Court, and over half as many concurring and dissenting opinions.

In addition to being recognized as one of our country’s leading jurists, Judge Murnaghan was known for his compassion for criminal defendants, for parties from low-income and marginalized communities, and for the vulnerable and the voiceless. An early advocate for racial and gender equality in Baltimore and beyond, Judge Murnaghan's supported those causes before it was the norm to do so in the legal community. In 1957, he filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland raising constitutional arguments against the criminal prosecution of a white woman for becoming pregnant with a Black man. In the 1960s, Judge Murnaghan fended civil rights activists who tried to integrate the Gwynn Oak amusement park in Baltimore County, and in 1967, Judge Murnaghan ran for mayor on a ticket promoting racial and religious diversity in city leadership.

After a career in public and private practice, Judge Murnaghan was nominated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, deciding appeals from federal district courts in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Judge Murnaghan’s devotion to core democratic freedoms was unwavering. He authored important opinions and milestone dissents in the areas of First Amendment, labor, criminal procedure, and civil rights law.

This fellowship, named in his honor, stands as a memorial to the values espoused by a towering legal figure who brought to the court a powerful intellect, deep knowledge of the law, an unyielding commitment to justice, and compassion for the parties appearing before him.

Our Board

Beth Mellen


Mark D. Maneche


Jean Zachariasiewicz


Margaret Z. ( Meg) Ferguson

W. Warren Hamel

Martin S. Himeles Jr.

Michael J. Leotta

Anthony May

Melissa Martinez

Charles C. Moore

Sheila Murnaghan

H. Mark Stichel

Lewis Yelin