Partial Transcript: You come from a well-known family in Haralson County...
Segment Synopsis: Murphy talks about his early life, parents, and his cousin Tom Murphy. He recalls working at a young age, joining the U.S. Navy, and studying law at the University of Georgia.
Keywords: Felton, Georgia; childhood
Partial Transcript: Tell us, if you will, a little bit about your service in the legislature.
Segment Synopsis: Murphy describes the atmosphere in the Georgia legislature when he joined in the 1950s. He comments on the different governors he hass worked under, including Herman Talmadge, Marvin Griffin, and Ernest Vandiver. He talks about not running for re-election to the legislature and the missed opportunity of being Speaker Pro Tempore of the House.
Keywords: Georgia General Assembly; re-election; representative
Partial Transcript: How early in life did you decide you'd like to be a judge?
Segment Synopsis: Murphy recalls being nominated by Jimmy Carter to serve as a superior court judge. He discusses how political patronage influences appointments to the federal bench, and the differences between the state and federal courts.
Keywords: Jimmy Carter; appointment; federal district court; political patronage; state superior court
Partial Transcript: Let's talk about some of your more visible cases.
Segment Synopsis: Murphy discusses famous cases he worked on including: Knight v. Alabama (regarding discrimination in all the public universities in Alabama), the Georgia Voter ID case, U.S. v. Thevis (regarding racketeering), and the Tri-State Crematory case.
Partial Transcript: Has your caseload increased very much over the years?
Segment Synopsis: Murphy discusses the decreasing caseload over the years, the blind case distribution system, and favor of sentencing to life without parole rather than the death penalty. Murphy also discusses the lack of funding for public defenders for indigent clients in death-penalty cases, and cites the Brian Nichols case as an example of the standstill that it has caused in Georgia.
Keywords: Brian Nichols; caseload; death penalty; funding; indigent defense; public defenders
Partial Transcript: Times change and people change.
Segment Synopsis: Murphy comments on the increased length of trials, and the practice of absolute discovery of evidence in pre-trial. He also compares the jury selection process between the superior versus federal courts, and explains the misconception around the phrase "picking the jury."
Keywords: evidence discovery; jury selection; striking jurors
Partial Transcript: I meant to ask you about staff.
Segment Synopsis: Murphy comments on the number of staffers he employs in his office. He also discusses the correspondence he receives from people he has sentenced, and his approach to sentencing compared to that of other judges.
Keywords: judge's office; sentencing; staff
Partial Transcript: I'm concerned about all these drug cases among young people.
Segment Synopsis: Murphy talks about the drug problem among young people and his experience trying big drug cases while on the federal bench. He also describes the administrative structure of the district court system.
Keywords: administration; drug use
BOB SHORT: Im Bob Short, and this is Reflections on Georgia Politics,sponsored by the Richard Russell Library at the University of Georgia. Our guest today is Judge Harold Murphy, who has been a Georgia legislator, a super court judge, and was appointed federal judge by Jimmy Carter in 1977. Welcome, Judge Murphy.
HAROLD MURPHY: Well, thank you very much. Im honored to be participating inthis program.
SHORT: You come from a well-known family in Haralson County of distinguishedlawyers and political leaders. Please tell us about your early life growing up in Haralson County, Georgia.
MURPHY: Well, I was born in a small community of about 200 people in Haralson00:01:00County called Felton. It was an unincorporated community. My father was a rural mail carrier and a farmer and a businessman. My mother was a schoolteacher and a school principal. And I went to a little country school. And there was a time when I was in the primary school that the schools were so poorly financed we had five months of school. And my parents then sent me to school over in Polk County, which had nine months of school, and went there for a couple of years. And the little community we were in still only had school seven months at the most, so they sent my brother and me to Buchanan School, where they had nine months of school. So I finished grammar school at Buchanan and then went through 00:02:00high school at Buchanan. So my father put my brother and me to growing cotton when we got about 13 or 14. He thought boys ought to be busy, and he sure kept us busy. And then I worked in a grocery store as a bag boy in a small grocery store in Cedartown beginning when I was 14 or 15, and did that all the way through high school on the weekends. And then I went to West Georgia College when I finished high school at Buchanan, Georgia. Went to West Georgia for four quarters and took extra courses. Joined the Navy when I was nearly 18. The Navy called me in the spring of 45. I was in boot camp when Japan surrendered. And 00:03:00I went through boot camp that summer, and then the Navy sent me back to college and sent me to the University of Mississippi for a year in the Naval ROTC program in 1946. The spring of 46, the Navy discharged me. And Id been out of high school two years and had three years of college credit. So I applied for law school at Emory and the University of Georgia and was accepted at both. And I went to the University of Georgia, finished law school there. And at the time, you could finish in eight quarters if you went straight through without a break. I took a break the second summer, which required nine quarters for me to finish law school. So I finished law school in March of 1949. My cousin Tom Murphy and I were in every class in law school together all the way through law school. And 00:04:00I began then practicing law in Buchanan, Georgia, on April 4, 1949. Id been admitted to the bar. I was 21. In March of 1949 I became 22, and I started practicing law on April 4, 1949. Practiced in Buchanan with a man named Don Howe. And we then moved our office to Tallapoosa some years later. I practiced there a while with him, and then with his son also practicing with us. And then I was appointed to the Superior Court bench by Governor Carter. And President Carter was in office when I was appointed to the federal bench in 1977.
SHORT: You were elected to the Georgia House of Representatives from HaralsonCounty in 1950.
MURPHY: Thats correct.
SHORT: And served five consecutive terms.
MURPHY: Thats correct.00:05:00
SHORT: And if Im not wrong, there was only two years in a 40-year periodthat a Murphy was not in the State House of Representatives representing Haralson County.
MURPHY: Even longer than that. James Murphy, Toms brother, went into thelegislature while Ellis Arnall was governor. I dont remember what particular year that occurred. But then James Murphy was there when we had the three governor contest. I dont remember if he ran for reelection after that contest or if he just did not run. But a young man named Charles Smith ran, and he served for two years. I qualified to run for election in 1950. Charles Smith did 00:06:00not qualify to run, but another man, a lawyer, older than I, named Claude Driver, qualified to run. And, fortunately, I won. And I never had opposition again.
SHORT: Mm-hm. Before we get too far away, lets talk a little bit about yourcousin, Tom. What was he like as a young man?
MURPHY: Well, as a young man he was gangly fellow. We were not particularlyclose while he was growing up. He lived in Bremen, and I lived on the north side of the county in the little community of Felton. I did visit with him some and knew him some when we would have maybe a family gathering of some kind, which were really infrequent for the entire family. And Tom is my fathers first cousin. I remember smoking rabbit tobacco at my uncles farm with Tom and my 00:07:00brother and my great-uncles sons, and a few other mischievous things. But then we were in law school together, and Tom got married while we were in law school. We studied a little bit together while we were in law school. Participated in the moot court together while we were in law school.
SHORT: Tell us, if you will, a little bit about your service in thelegislature. What was happening during that period from 1950 to 1960?
MURPHY: Well, it was an interesting time for Georgia. When I was in law schoolat the University of Georgia, and when I was in the legislature, the first few years I was in the legislature, it was kind of like a Petri dish of youngsters who were ambitious and people who ultimately became leaders of the state, 00:08:00politically, in the judiciary, and even the business world. I was there when we passed the sales tax and Governor Talmadge was the governor. We passed the sales tax and substantially increased funding for the schools. Governor Talmadge was a rather progressive governor, without appearing to be as progressive as he was. But he was very much attuned to the views of the people and what the public wanted. And he had these strong supporters who would have done anything for him. I heard him comment one time that there was one particular fellow who was such a strong supporter , he said, I believe if I asked him to burn down the State Capitol, hed do so. But then, after Senator Talmadge, we had Marvin 00:09:00Griffin as governor. And there was a sense of things not being absolutely the way they should be during Marvin Griffins term of office. That appearance did not come from him. He was a very charming rascal. But some of his cronies, and particularly his brother, Cheney, gave kind of a smelly reputation to his administration. And then there was a young man married to a Russell, Governor Vandiver, who was very well-loved by the Georgia people. Hed been a lieutenant governor, and then he became governor. And he was a handsome young 00:10:00man. And people in Georgia seemed to want to elect and support leaders who were young. If you think about it, Governor Talmadge was young. Richard Russell was young when he went to the United States Senate. Carl Sanders was young when he became governor. George Busbee was young when he became governor. So Vandiver was a popular man when he went into office.
SHORT: Had a lot of problems, though, during his term.
MURPHY: Had bad problems. He was governor at a time when it was very difficultfor state leader in the South with the ending of segregation and the difficulties that were rife with all the civil problems and community problems occurring at that time.
SHORT: Why did you not seek reelection to the House?00:11:00
MURPHY: Well, I got married. I needed to make a living. Its very difficultto be a lawyer and be in the legislature unless you have somebody looking after your business while youre gone. And while I was practicing law with another man, nobody looked after what my responsibility was while I was gone. In addition to that, I had observed enough until I saw either you better make politics a career and be big in it, or you better get out of it. I met these people for whom I had a lot of respect who would come to Atlanta wit one administration and hold a job running a department. Another governor would get elected and hed fire that person, and hed go back to south Georgia, stay there four years, eight years. And his friend would get elected, and hed come 00:12:00back to Atlanta for a while. And they just spent their life like a yoyo, back and forth, from their communities back to Atlanta. And I did not see that as a career for me. And, frankly, I dont know how people who did, why they wanted to do it.
SHORT: So you never thought about running for a higher office?
MURPHY: Well, I was asked to run for higher office. I was courted by people whocame to see me and ask me to run for Congress years ago, and they told me, You will not have to get out and raise a penny. Well raise it for you. And Ill tell you a story nobody much knows. When I decided not to run, about two weeks after everybody had qualified, I had a telephone call from Phil Campbell, who was Commissioner of Agriculture at the time. And he said, 00:13:00Weve seen that you did not qualify to run. And I said, No, I didnt run for reelection. I said, I told the Speaker at the end of the last session I was not going to run for reelection. And he said, Well, he didnt realize that. The Speaker did not. He didnt know that. It must not have gotten through to him, because I called you to tell you we had decided over here that we were going to elect you Speaker Pro Tem of the House. I says, Well, its too late now. He said, Well, can you get your cousin Tom to withdraw? And I said, No, I wouldnt even approach him about it. So thats made a lot of difference in my career.
SHORT: Mm-hm. How early in life did you decide youd like to be a judge?
MURPHY: I never intended to be a judge when I was in law school. When I went to00:14:00law school, I thought Id be an FBI agent. Because to be an FBI agent, you had to be either an accountant or a lawyer. And I had read these books as I grew up about the FBI and whatnot, and I thought thatd be a good career. But I was too young to get in the FBI when I finished law school, so I started practicing law. And I never intended to seek a job as a judge. After my law practice became successful, I was making a lot more money as a lawyer than a judge is paid. But ultimately, as time passed, I needed to make some changes in my career. And I had the telephone call that said, Come over here next Friday to the Capitol. 00:15:00The Governor wants to swear you in as judge. So I went and took the oath of office. I never asked for it. I had sought an appointment to the federal bench prior to that occurrence. But the Republicans were in power, so I didnt get anywhere with my efforts at that time.
SHORT: But youd served as a solicitor.
MURPHY: I did work as the assistant to solicitor general in our circuit forabout a year.
SHORT: So you had some good experience.
MURPHY: I tried a lot of cases. I tried the cases that year. But my partner andI, we had a broad practice. I tried dozens and dozens of major homicide cases when I was practicing law as a lawyer. And tried a lot of civil cases. And by 00:16:00the time I went on the bench, I guess 40% of the work I did was helping other lawyers with their cases.
SHORT: So then you got the call from President Carter . . .
MURPHY: Yes, sir.
SHORT: . . . asking you would you like to be on the bench, the federal bench.
MURPHY: Well, no, he didnt call me. When Carter became president, there wasa vacancy for a judicial seat in the Northern District of Georgia. And I spoke to Senator Nunn about it and I spoke to Senator Talmadge about it. And those are senatorial appointments, really. They call them presidential appointments, but its a patronage position of the party of the president. And the President was 00:17:00a Democrat, and we had Democratic senators. And they recommended me to the President, and the President submitted my name for confirmation by the Senate and I was confirmed.
SHORT: How does that process of confirmation work? Does the president do theheavy loading, or do you have to do it?
MURPHY: No. The people who you have to do it if its for a district courtposition, now. And you have to do through the political process. That is, if the senators or one senator or both senators of your state belong to the party of the president, then that senator or those senators have the right to nominate or send the name to the president for selection. If the president happens to be one party, and theres no senator who belongs to that particular party in 00:18:00office in Washington, then the decisions are made by the political patronage people in the state, who might be a congressman; it might be several congressmen; it might be political chairman of the party of the president. Thats something that differs from state to state when the president is of one party and the senators are of another party. Now, when it comes to circuit judges, those are strictly presidential appointments.
SHORT: Well, before we get too far away, lets talk a minute about how thefederal court system works in Georgia. Im afraid too many people dont really understand the federal courts as they do their local superior and state courts. 00:19:00
MURPHY: Youre exactly right. The federal courts try cases that involvefederal law, cases that involve issues on the Constitution of the United States, and cases that involve claims or issues between diverse parties where the amount in controversy is $75,000 or more. The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. The states courts are courts of general jurisdiction. They can try anything, basically. But the federal courts try cases, and Im repeating myself, such as patents, antitrust, civil rights, copyright cases, securities 00:20:00cases, automobile wrecks where, for instance, a person from Alabama is involved in a wreck here in Georgia with a Georgia citizen and the claim is over $75,000. They can come into federal court on what you call diversity of citizenship. And thats true with business transactions and contracts, those type things.
SHORT: Lets talk about some of your more visible cases. I remember Knight v. Alabama.
MURPHY: Well, that case is a big part of my career on the federal bench. PaulRoney was the chief judge of the 11th Circuit in 1989, I believe. And he called 00:21:00me and asked me to preside in a case in Alabama in which they disqualified one judge who had heard the case, and then disqualified most of the other judges, if not all the other judges, in Alabama from handling the case. And it involved the vestiges of discrimination in all the public universities in Alabama. And he asked me to preside in the case, and I did. And ultimately we had try it. It took six months to try it. The order I wrote was 1,000 pages long. The 11th Circuit reversed well, it didnt reverse, but they remanded a portion of it. So I had to go back six more weeks and tried that portion of the case for 00:22:00six more weeks. And then I presided over the case for about 15 years, and I terminated that case two years ago this month. It is interesting to note that the University of Alabama has the reputation of being a most segregated school as a result of Governor Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door, so to speak, at the University of Alabama when they attempted to integrate the school. The University of Alabama is one of the most integrated universities in the South. And they have two traditionally black universities, one at Huntsville and one in Montgomery. I had to do a lot of work to bring those universities up to par, so 00:23:00to speak, in facilities and in payment of professors salaries and in getting white people into those traditionally black schools.
SHORT: You heard the Georgia Voter ID case.
MURPHY: Yes, I did.
SHORT: How did that get in your court?
MURPHY: Well, I guess one of the reasons is, a defendant in the case was thelady here in Floyd County who runs the election here. She was one of the defendants. And there were other defendants over the state that were named, but that gave them jurisdiction here. I enjoined the effectiveness of the law, 00:24:00because it required people to pay $20 for voter ID if they did not have a valid drivers license or some other government identification. And we ruled that was akin to a poll tax and enjoined the operation of the law. Then the legislature amended the law, removed that provision and requirement. And they also ultimately adequately advertised the change in the law. So then I denied the request for a further injunctive relief. Thats on appeal now to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and was argued in the circuit about two weeks ago.
SHORT: U.S. versus Thevis.
MURPHY: That was a classic case. I tried it here in 1979. It was indicted as an00:25:00Atlanta case and publicity was very high, and I moved it here. And surprisingly, here, very few people had ever heard about that case, even though people take Atlanta papers here and listen to the Atlanta news. I realize how diverse this state is. So many people from this area and north of here watch the Chattanooga news rather than the Atlanta news. So we had no problem getting a jury. It was estimated itd take 16 weeks to try the case. We tried it in nine weeks. Mr. Thevis was a pornographer, and he was indicted with other people for 00:26:00racketeering. And the racketeering acts involved five murders, bribery, arson. And there were fine lawyers in the case. And so we tried it in this courtroom, and it was a most interesting case. Mr. Thevis had been in the penitentiary. He escaped the penitentiary and was a fugitive for some period of time. While he was a fugitive, there were two witnesses whose testimony the government wanted to preserve. And I was in Atlanta taking the testimony of those witnesses and doing it in the Fulton County Courthouse, where they had the TV facilities and recording facilities, the day they found Mr. Thevis up in the northeast United 00:27:00States. And by the time that word got to all the lawyers, my lawyers were deserting me that afternoon to go make sure whether or not they were hired by Mr. Thevis.
SHORT: He got a rather long sentence for that.
MURPHY: Yeah, he had got life plus 20 years.
SHORT: And I imagine hes still in the . . .
MURPHY: Hes still in the penitentiary.
SHORT: . . . federal penitentiary.
MURPHY: Yes, he is.
SHORT: I know that you had mentioned that you had a very interesting murdercase as a private lawyer.
MURPHY: Yes, I did.
SHORT: And that was the Ledford case.
MURPHY: Yes, it was. I wont go into great detail about it, but Mr. Ledfordhad been in the penitentiary at Reidsville and was released. And when he was 00:28:00released, he took up with a woman of the evening. And from there, they robbed a man who was one of her customers and beat him over the head and whatnot, and put him in the trunk of the car that they had and started out West with him. And they got over into the Dallas, Georgia, area and were pulled over by a local police officer who told the lady, Your taillights out. And she said, Well, well go down the way here and Ill get it repaired. So they did go down the way, but they went out in the country to a secluded area, and went back, opened the trunk. And, of course, this gentleman had pulled the wires loose on the taillight. But they opened the trunk, and Mr. Ledford, Hoyt 00:29:00Ledford, took his pistol and he was going to shoot him, and his pistol wouldnt work. Hed bent it beating around on the poor fellows head. And so the woman said, Well, here, use my pistol. So she gave him her pistol, and he shot him in the ear and killed him. And they closed the trunk door and took him out and dumped him off the mountainside near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Some squirrel hunters found the body shortly afterwards, notified the law about that. But in the meantime, the undertaker who owned the vehicle that they were in from Lawrenceville had notified the law his car was gone. So a couple of Indians named Longacre, who were bounty hunters in Norman, Oklahoma, on Route 66, stopped the car and arrested them. So our client, Hoyt, he gave about four 00:30:00confessions. Anybody who would talk to him, hed confess about what hed done. And we were defending him in Polk County down at Cedartown: Jimmy Parker, the lawyer from Cedartown, Don Howe, my partner, and I. And our defense was insanity, which is a tough defense, incidentally. And the only people we could find to testify about him were people who were in the penitentiary with him and his relatives. So he had a brother who was a barber up in Chatsworth, and we called him as a witness. And I had his brother on the stand, and I said, Mr. Ledford, in your opinion, is your brother Hoyt sane or insane. And he says, I've thought he was crazy ever since he killed that other man.
MURPHY: I think thats the worst I know thats the worst answer I ever00:31:00had in court.
SHORT: Its hard to overcome that.
MURPHY: Oh, it was bad.
SHORT: The crematory case.
MURPHY: That was a novel case, a most interesting case, that involved acrematory up here in Walker County, where the crematory did not cremate bodies, but stored them around over the properties. And there were hundreds of them, and we had a class action. Ultimately got it all resolved, but it was a very sad situation, a very strange situation. The fellow running the crematory has been prosecuted in state court and is serving some time in the penitentiary, but we had the civil case here. And I thought we were going to have to try it, but 00:32:00ultimately we got it all settled and worked out without having to try it. But it was a very sad thing for people, very tragic thing for members of the family. It brought back a lot of grief.
SHORT: Has your caseload increased very much over the years?
MURPHY: Its decreased, really. When I first came here, my caseload Imthe first and only district judge ever signed to Rome in the federal court system. Judges would just come and visit here for a week or two in the spring and a week or two in the fall and handle the business. When I came, about 40% of the caseload was here, and about 60% of my caseload was in Atlanta. And the civil caseload was running around 500 cases a year, plus the criminal caseload. 00:33:00We ultimately got additional judges for the Northern District of Georgia, so my case load went down. And for the last year or so the civil caseload has been less. People are arbitrating their cases more, mediating their cases much more than they were.
SHORT: Ive been curious about the impact of the demise of the federalsentencing guidelines. Has that had an effect on . . .
MURPHY: Theyve really not been terminated. For about 20 years, 18 to 20years, they were mandatory. The Supreme Court that they were not absolutely mandatory. They are advisory, but theyre highly advisory. And anybody whose sentenced, I have to appropriately consider the United States sentencing 00:34:00guidelines and determine correctly what is the sentence that the guidelines would mandate. That is, the sentencing range that would be required. And then Im required to give consideration to another provision of the law that speaks protection of the public, respect for the law, matters of that kind, and then impose what the court believes to be a reasonable sentence and a proper sentence. Generally those sentences comport with the advisory of the United States sentencing guidelines. But there are also many statues that have been passed by the Congress which require minimum mandatory sentences at least. Some drug cases you have to sentence people to at least 10 years. Some at least five years. If they are subsequent or second offenders, and proper notices are given, 00:35:00you may have to sentence them to 20 years as a minimum. So the discretion of a federal judge is not what people might think it is.
SHORT: Who determines which judge hears what case?
MURPHY: Thats an automatic thing, and its not a discretionary matter. Theclerk of the court maintains a docket system in places such as Atlanta where there are multiple judges. And its supposed to be a blind system, and that system determines which judge gets which case. For instance, if its a patent case, they have a system whereby each judge gets his or her share of the patent cases. They rotate own the list. If its an antitrust case, they have a 00:36:00system whereby a list is maintained. Judge so-and-so gets the first case, Judge so-and-so gets the second case, and Judge so-and-so gets the third case, all different judges until it goes through the system. And then it comes back and rotates over again.
SHORT: How often do federal judges communicate with each other?
MURPHY: Well, frequently if they have lunch together. I dont get to visitwith my colleagues nearly as much as I would if I were in Atlanta. But when I would be in Atlanta, I would have lunch with some of them every day.
SHORT: I mentioned to you earlier the new sentencing of life without parole andits effect on the death penalty.
MURPHY: Yeah, we mentioned that briefly. Particularly its a matter for talknow and thoughts now in view of the Nichols case, which has just been completed in Atlanta on the trial level. Sentencing of life without parole, I think, is 00:37:00tending to do away with death penalty cases. And I think itll do more of that in the future.
SHORT: There seems to be a feeling among some Georgians that the wheels ofjustice in Georgia turn rather slowly.
MURPHY: People may have that opinion, but if they turn slowly or they turnfast, they grind exceedingly fine. In the federal system, things move fast. 00:38:00
SHORT: What is your opinion of Georgias indigent defense system?
MURPHY: I think its very nice and very fine that we have such a system.Its been needed a long time. When I began the practice of law, lawyers were appointed to represent indigent people and were not compensated. That didnt ever both me, because I enjoyed representing the people I was appointed to represent. And I found, for some strange reason, that in these criminal cases where you were appointed to represent indigent defendants, it seemed easier to me to win their cases than the cases of people who hired lawyers. It may have been, for some reason, the prosecution just didnt prepare as much in those 00:39:00type cases. But then they began to pay some fees on occasion. The State legislature passed a law years ago that the counties could be required to pay up to $500 in a capital case. I never got paid in a capital case in which I was appointed but once by a county. And another lawyer and I were appointed to represent a man for murder. And we tried the case, and the county paid us $200, $100 apiece. And then I was never, ever paid any other fee by a county or the state of Georgia for representing an indigent defendant. I was paid on a few occasions before I went on the bench for representing people by appointment in federal court. And its a very basic thing now for people to be paid by the 00:40:00federal government for representing indigent defendants in this court. Georgias long needed it. Its not adequately funded, but it is an improvement over what did exist. Unfortunately, cases such as the Nichols case are so expensive that it weakens the financial ability of the state with reference to other defendants across the state which have lesser cases, smaller cases, but important to them.
SHORT: Have you enjoyed being a federal judge?
MURPHY: Yes, I have. Ive enjoyed being a federal judge. I enjoyed being astate judge. I tremendously enjoyed practicing law. I missed the practice of law. A lawyer can do a lot of good for people. You can certainly help many, many 00:41:00people who need help badly if youre a conscientious lawyer and youre representing people rather than corporations or what you might all legal entities.
SHORT: What is the most enjoyable part of being a judge?
MURPHY: The mental requirements, the mental exercise you get.
SHORT: Well, whats the worst part?
MURPHY: The worst part is piles of paper that you have to go through sometimes.00:42:00But there are things worse than that. The difficulty of sentencing people. Being as fair as you can and as responsible as you can. It also results in a lonely life if youre a judge, particularly if youre a federal judge. There is a loneliness to the job that is different from that of a lawyer.
SHORT: What makes a good judge?
MURPHY: A reasonable knowledge of the law, an excellent knowledge of the rulesof evidence. But more important than those two things is that you need to 00:43:00respect every individual with whom you deal, whether that person is a lawyer, or a party to the litigation in a civil case, or a defendant whos before you for sentencing. And be patient and be courteous. Those are just basic important requirements.
SHORT: You deal with a lot of trial lawyers. What makes a good trial lawyer?
MURPHY: Preparation, preparation, preparation, and then ability. A sharp mindand experience, experience and experience. 00:44:00
SHORT: Well, I appreciate that. Because if I ever need a trial lawyer, Illknow now what to look for.
SHORT: Times change and people change. Has the nature of the cases you hearchanged much over the years?
MURPHY: Yes. Yes. When you say the nature of the cases, maybe not so muchthe kinds of cases, but cases themselves. When I began the practice of law, I have seen judges in the federal court try two cases a day, criminal cases. For instance, interstate transportation of an automobile across the state line and 00:45:00maybe a liquor case, try one before lunch and one after lunch. Now, that may sound extreme, but it is not. Ive tried cases myself that way in federal court and in state court. I have tried as a lawyer conspiracy cases in federal court thatd take three days. Now a conspiracy case, if you try it in a week, youre doing quite well. Most of the time itll take two weeks, 10 days. The rules now require absolute discovery, in so far as criminal cases are concerned, so the defense lawyers know what the evidence is going to be against their client. Also, even the defense has to disclose certain information so the 00:46:00government knows that information. And so it just takes much longer to try a criminal case than it did. Civil cases have become more complex because lawyers take more depositions and more discovery before trial and then spend more time trying the cases before a jury or before the court.
SHORT: How is the jury selection process? Does it differ in federal court froma superior court?
MURPHY: It differs, yes, some. Both are supposed to be a cross-section of thecommunity. The jury box for the federal system is gathered by going to the voters list for the Northern District of Georgia, the Rome Division, all the 00:47:00counties in the Rome Division. And they also look at drivers license and other sources to get names of people who may not be voting. And then theyre all by lot put into the system by computer, and then theyre drawn by computer. In the state system, they originally came from the tax rolls. But they come from the tax rolls and the voters rolls and otherwise. And theyre put into what was a jury box when I was practicing the law and a superior court judge. And then the judge would go to the county courthouse and, by lot, pull out names. And I dont know how they do it now, but its supposed to be a cross-section also. 00:48:00
SHORT: What about striking jurors?
MURPHY: Well, all lawyers will tell you thats an art. And the striking ofjurors differs somewhat from state to state. Here in the federal court system, each side is required to take so many strikes. In a civil case, each side has three strikes. And what that means is you remove three names. People call it picking the jury. You dont pick the jury. What you do is eliminate people from the jury. So we can try civil cases in this court with six people or more. And usually I try them with eight people. So I put 14 people in the jury box vior dire, and then have the lawyers each remove three names. And they 00:49:00alternate in removing the names. And that leaves eight people left to try the case.
SHORT: Thirty-one years on the bench.
MURPHY: Thirty-one years on the federal bench, six-and-a-half years on thestate bench.
SHORT: Whats ahead for Judge Harold L. Murphy, retirement or more years onthe bench or run for Congress?
MURPHY: Well, Im delighted not to be running for any office. And one of hebenefits of the office I have is that, after youre ultimately appointed and confirmed, you dont have to run for office. Im aware that one of these days Ill have to retire, take senior status. Ive not done so because I didnt take my job looking forward to retirement. If I werent here, Id still be practicing law, if anybody wanted to hire me. 00:50:00
SHORT: Well, its preparation, preparation, preparation.
MURPHY: Thats true.
SHORT: If youre willing to do that, youll get hired.
SHORT: Well, finally, looking back over your life and your career, is thereanything you would have done differently?
MURPHY: Well, of course, there is. I would have tried to be a better lawyer. Iwould have tried to be a better person. I enjoyed practicing law. I enjoyed being in the public office because public service is a part of my family history. My parents were very public-spirited, and my familys been very public-spirited. And so I dont know that theres really anything I would have done differently. Probably I would have married earlier, not waited as long 00:51:00to marry my beautiful wife. And I might have wound up practicing law in a larger community. Theres more opportunity in larger communities, professionally. And that Thevis case I talked about, theres a lawyer from Nashville, Tennessee, named James Neal. I severed out one county in the Thevis case involving a lawyer from Atlanta in which they were claiming bribery. And I tried it separately. Took a week to try it. Hes one of the best lawyers I've ever seen in my life. 00:52:00I had a hearing here in the courtroom, took an hour or so, before the trial. I walked back in my office and I said, I can tell you whos going to win this case, this particular facet of the case. Mr. Neal. And so we got through with the hearing and I said, When will you be available to try this case? And he said, Im available anytime you want to set it down, Judge. He said, I only take one case at a time. Of course, he charged this fellow $100,000 for representing him.
MURPHY: And we tried it, and he got him acquitted. Hes the same lawyer thatrepresented Ford Motor Company when they indicted them for I believe it was indicted Ford for murder in connection with a Pinto that caught fire and burned 00:53:00up in Kentucky. And he defended them in that case. Charged a million dollars for that. But hes also the lawyer who prosecuted this big labor boss that was head of the Teamsters that somebody did away with and they never found his body.
SHORT: Jimmy Hoffa.
MURPHY: Yeah, Jimmy Hoffa. He prosecuted him for jury tampering up inTennessee. So its a pleasure to see some of those great lawyers occasionally.
SHORT: Yeah, Ill bet. Why cant we use that?
MURPHY: Well, you can. Yeah.
SHORT: We got it on tape, dont you?
MALE SPEAKER: If it's okay to use it I'll leave it in the show.
SHORT: Nothing wrong with that. I mean, thats not Georgia lawyers.
MURPHY: Its an example of a fine lawyer.00:54:00
SHORT: I meant to ask you about staff. Im sure that you need a professional,adequate staff.
MURPHY: I do have. I have two law clerks. I keep a law clerk for two yearsusually. And that one leaves and another one comes for two years. And theyve rotated through the years. I now have a career law clerk, a young woman, whos been with me 10 or 12 years now. A brilliant young woman. And I have a young man whos been here now since September. His predecessor was a young woman who was here for three years. So basically I have two law clerks. I have a secretary. 00:55:00And I have a courtroom deputy assigned to me that handles the scheduling. And of course, theres a court reporter who is assigned to me who takes down and the reporting of all the trials and all the conferences in my office.
SHORT: Normally, how many trials would you have, say, in a week?
MURPHY: Oh, in a week? Seldom will I have more than one jury trial in a week.But I will have a lot of guilty pleas, hearings, sentencings, conferences, in a week. For a number of years, I was in the courtroom between 750 and 850 hours a year. Thereve been years when I was in the courtroom a thousand hours a year. 00:56:00That is a long time and a lot of time in the courtroom. And in doing that, Im not counting any time in recess, any time for lunch. Im talking about actual trial time. In recent years, 200 or 300 hours a year is as much as I will spend in the courtroom, because, as Ive indicated, litigations seems to have lessened. There are more mediations and more arbitrations.
SHORT: How do you deal with those cases?
MURPHY: Well, they are handled just as a regular case. And then when theparties reach the point where they know what each sides evidence is and what 00:57:00each sides position is, they will agree to mediate. And theyll meet with a lawyer whos gifted and trained as a mediator. And the parties will be there as well as the lawyers, and they will speak separately with the mediator and some time together with the mediator and see if they cannot resolve the case by settlement. Frequently, quite frequently, theyre successful in resolving them.
SHORT: And those decisions stand? Does that come back to you?
MURPHY: It doesnt have to come back to me. They just make the agreement andthey settle the case. And they agree on it, and they file a dismissal. Now, if there are minors, of course, they have to come back to me and I have to approve the settlement. If theyre minors, that is, incompetent people involved. 00:58:00
SHORT: Sounds like a pretty good way to deal with a lot of cases.
MURPHY: It is. And lawyers have found that to be very effective. Trials arevery expensive. Preparation for trial is expensive and very time-consuming. And then the trials are very stressful for the parties and the lawyers.
MALE SPEAKER: Do you ever hear from the people youve sentenced?
MURPHY: Yes. I have letters of admiration from some people Ive sentenced. Ihave people who write me and thank me for saving their life. I have some of those Im going to give to the library, some of those letters. Some I get a Christmas card from every year that Ive sentenced. And some, of course Im smart enough to know that some of them who are in the penitentiary are 00:59:00writing me trying to soften me up for some reason. But some are really serious about it. You do not have to be a snarling individual when you send somebody to penitentiary. Its not pleasant for them. At least you can treat them like a decent human being when you sentence them, and you dont need to call them bad names and say bad things about them. My gosh, sentencing to serve times enough without you telling them how sorry they are and all their relatives and what a heel he is or she is. And Ive known of judges who do that.
SHORT: The old expression is throw the book at them.01:00:00
MURPHY: Yeah. Yes. There are people who want everybody to be in thepenitentiary except themselves and their families.
SHORT: Yeah. Not a nice place, is it?
MURPHY: No. Frankly, the people with whom you associate may be one of the worstthings about being in prison.
SHORT: Yeah, Im sure thats true.
SHORT: Come out worse than you went in.
MURPHY: Yeah. Oh, yes.
SHORT: Im concerned about all these drug cases among young people.
MURPHY: Well, my son is a juvenile court judge, my older son, and he agreeswith what Ive said. The problem in this country is the parents. Its not 01:01:00the children. Thats where our problems are coming from, poor parenting and no parenting and sorry parenting. And thats the sad thing about it.
SHORT: Do you get many drug cases?
MURPHY: A lot of drug cases, yes. The ones we get are big drug cases. TheUnited States Attorneys Office wont take minor drug cases. But there are occasions when state people will go right to the federal authorities to get them to prosecute a case so that the person will get a lot of time in a federal prison. And theres no parole in the federal system. People serve about 85% of their time. 01:02:00
SHORT: Is the federal attorney for this Rome Division in Atlanta?
MURPHY: Yes. Yes, sir. Te Northern District of Georgia sits in four places forholding court: Gainesville, Rome, Newnan and Atlanta. The grand juries meet in Atlanta. The United States Attorneys Office is in Atlanta, and his assistants are all in Atlanta. And they come out and prosecute cases out in the district in the divisions. And each court is called a division: the Atlanta Division, Newnan Division, Rome Division and Gainesville Division.
SHORT: Does the system have,, for lack of a better word or from ignorance, an administrator?
MURPHY: Yes, we do. Theres a clerk of court in Atlanta, and he has deputies01:03:00in Rome and Newnan and Gainesville and deputies working for him in Atlanta. In addition to that, we have in the Northern District of Georgia what you call a court executive, district executive, and that person looks after a lot of the management matters for the court, such as renovations to courtrooms, courthouses, acquiring of certain facilities for the courts.
SHORT: Well, youve certainly been a good person, a good lawyer, a goodjudge. And I want to thank you on behalf of the Richard B. Russell Library, the University of Georgia and myself for being with us. 01:04:00
MURPHY: Well, thank you. Im honored to participate in this program.
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