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.