The Fellowship


Judge Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. understood the importance of the rule of law to marginalized communities and to those whose voices often are silenced. After his passing, his friends and family came together to create a “living memorial” by funding a one-year fellowship for recent law school graduates who have served as a judicial clerk and are committed to working in public interest law, especially in the areas of civil rights and poverty law.

Each Fellow plays an important role in accomplishing systemic change within the legal and social systems that create or permit injustice. Our work in appeals helps judges understand how their decisions impact people with low-incomes and communities of color. As part of the Appellate Project at the Public Justice Center, the Fellow is supervised by experienced attorneys and mentors. Some of the ways in which Murnaghan Fellows develop appellate issues include:

  • serving as counsel or co-counsel, sometimes in collaboration with trial counsel, sometimes on behalf of litigants who did not have counsel at trial;
  • submitting amicus curiae  (friend of the court) briefs that explain to the court the implications of the case on people living in poverty or victims of injustice that are not being adequately expressed by the parties;
  • referring cases to private law firms for briefing and argument;
  • working with other counsel at the trial stage to guide the development of important issues for appeal; and
  • offering assistance to appellate counsel through strategizing, editing appellate briefs, and mooting for appellate arguments.

Become a Fellow

The Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellowship is awarded annually to a recent law graduate who has completed a judicial clerkship. The Fellow must have passed a state bar examination and be eligible for admission to the bar of that state by the commencement of the Fellowship. Applicants should possess excellent research and writing skills and a demonstrable commitment to social justice.

To apply for the 2025-2026 Fellowship (beginning September 2025), applicants should submit a resume, law school transcript, the names of three professional or academic references, and a brief statement of interest.

Please send application materials to our administrator at Applications are typically due in October the year before the Fellowship begins. The deadline will be posted on this webpage.

Past and Present Fellows

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 the Public Justice Center's National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, 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.

Current Fellow

Melanie Babb is honored to serve as the 2023-2024 Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellow at the Public Justice Center. In this role, she represents parties and files amicus briefs in civil rights cases related to poverty law and racial equity issues in state and federal courts.

Prior to joining PJC, Melanie clerked for the Honorable Christopher B. Kehoe on the Appellate Court of Maryland and former Special Family Magistrate Andrea F. Kelly for Baltimore City Circuit Court. She earned her law degree from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where she worked as a student attorney for the Consumer Protection Clinic and was the Articles Editor for the Journal of Health Care Law and Policy. During law school, Melanie drafted the Baltimore City Wage Commission’s first procedural bylaws. Prior to law school, Melanie graduated from the University of Rhode Island summa cum laude in 2017.