Mary Murphy, ’11, has been awarded a Public Defender Corps fellowship. Her Fellowship project will be with the Orleans Public Defenders in New Orleans, Louisiana, a relatively new office that defends the poor and indigent in Orleans Parish.
“This is part of a new program through Equal Justice Works and the Southern Public Defender Training Center called the Public Defender Corps,” Murphy said. “It involves extensive training and lasts for three years. I had always been interested in civil rights issues but after working at Orleans Public Defenders last summer I saw the serious disparity in resources for indigent criminal defendants compared with prosecutors. The criminal justice system needs dramatic change to actually give defendants a chance at our value of innocence until guilt is proven.”
Jonathan Rapping, founder and CEO of the Southern Public Defender Training Center, spoke at the Law School about reforming indigent defense in February, a speech Murphy attended and which helped greatly to inform her fellowship project proposal. Her fellowship award places her in the inaugural class of the Public Defender Corps Program. Murphy was one of eighteen, out of more than 450 applicants, to be awarded a fellowship. She and the other Fellows will begin training in August. Upon completion of their training, they will join public defender offices in Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee where they will receive ongoing training and mentoring.
Public Defender Corps partners with public defender offices that confront challenges to their ability to provide every client the representation and equal treatment the Constitution guarantees. The fellowships are meant to identify recent law graduates qualified to help carry out that mission. Fellows will participate in an intensive, three-year training and mentorship program designed to both make them better public defenders and support their ability to become strong leaders in the field of indigent defense.
At the Law School, Murphy participated in the Domestic Violence Clinic for two semesters and also in the Human Rights Clinic. She was also editor in chief of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights and participated in the Public Interest Law Association and Street Law student groups.
“At the Domestic Violence Clinic under the tutorship of Jeana Lungwitz and Kaitlin Farrell I developed trial advocacy skills and client support,” Mary said. “Also, the class Policing the Police with Jennifer Laurin inspired me to think critically about the justice system and focus my interests on criminal law.”
Murphy, originally from Takoma Park, Maryland, earned her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University. She said she hoped to continue with similar work after her fellowship ends. “I hope to stay in New Orleans to be a career public defender,” she said. “And as time goes on to more actively participate in shaping policy and community support for indigent defendants.”