News Release

Renowned Baltimore Attorney William ‘Billy’ Murphy, Jr. Honored by Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar

Washington, DC (May 28, 2024) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) honored William H. “Billy” Murphy, Jr., a civil rights advocate, civil litigator, former judge, and criminal defense attorney who has fought for justice and reform in Baltimore for over 50 years. Judge Murphy was presented the Trailblazer for Justice Award at a reception in his honor hosted by NACDL’s Foundation for Criminal Justice (NFCJ). Attendees at the event included prestigious defense lawyers, Baltimore city and Maryland state government officials, and civil rights advocates. Earlier in the day, the city of Baltimore named a street after Judge Murphy in honor of his many achievements and commitment to justice for the city’s residents.

“This award means the world to me because NACDL has been one of the most important organizations of my life, not just my professional career,” said Billy Murphy. “I am especially grateful for this recognition by my peers, many of whom have become my dear friends. I've gotten to know so many of you exceptionally well over the last 40-something years. I've had the honor of serving on the board. I've had the honor of being around great lawyers."

Judge Murphy is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, where he founded the University of Maryland chapter of the Black Law Students Association and worked to increase diversity in the law school’s enrollment. In the early 1980s, he served as a judge for the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. He is the founder and senior partner of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, a prestigious law firm known throughout Baltimore. Judge Murphy has represented clients in many high-profile cases, including the 1998 fraud trial of boxing promoter Don King. In 2015, he represented the family of Freddy Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who died of a spinal cord injury inflicted in the back of a police van. Judge Murphy secured a $6.4 million settlement in his family’s wrongful death case against the City of Baltimore. He has also represented plaintiffs in prominent cases against corporations, including a 2008 suit against Constellation Energy on behalf of homeowners whose drinking water was contaminated by toxic coal ash.

“From the time William ‘Billy’ Murphy was a boy, he had a strong sense of justice and fought tirelessly to achieve it,” said NFCJ Board of Trustees President Cynthia Hujar Orr. “At 14-years-old he challenged the operation of an incinerator that was presenting a public health crisis in his community, and it was shut down within a year. Never intimidated by power, Billy's frame of reference is always from the perspective of joyfully helping someone in need. Billy takes great pleasure in fighting the hard fights against injustice wherever he sees it. He promotes civil rights in his personal investments in education and in righting social wrongs. And his incredibly successful record as a lawyer shows his commitment to right. He elevates justice and has given to all lawyers who come in contact with him his kindness, wisdom, and strength. From the community activism of his youth, to his service on the bench, to his history-making case outcomes, the impacts of his work change the world for the better not just here in Baltimore, but nationwide.”

"There are a lot of qualified lawyers in the world. But there are not many who have the courage to take a stand when people need them most," said civil rights lawyer Ben Crump. "Billy Murphy, thank you for always standing up for us."

The mission of the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice is to preserve and promote the core values of America’s justice system guaranteed by the Constitution – among them due process, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, fair sentencing, and effective assistance of counsel – by educating the public and the legal profession to the role of these rights and values in a free society.


Jessie Diamond, Public Affairs and Communications Strategist, (202) 465-7647 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.

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