Date: October 2, 2003 Contact: Laura Kiernan
Court Information Officer
271-2646 x359



CONCORD—Chief Justice Walter L. Murphy of the Superior Court, who began his long legal career in New Hampshire at a small law office in Plymouth, announced today that he will retire on December 31, 2003, after serving 20 years as a judge on the state trial court, including three years as chief justice.

"I felt honored to serve our state," Murphy said. "I don’t know how I can express my appreciation to all of those who work so hard in the court system," he said.

Murphy, 65, was appointed to the trial court bench in 1983 by then Gov. John Sununu. He came to New Hampshire in 1962, after graduating from Boston College Law School, because, he told friends, he wanted to be a "country lawyer."

He joined the law office of now retired New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice William F. Batchelder, on Main Street in Plymouth. They first met in 1958 when Murphy was a college student visiting Plymouth with the Holy Cross Glee Club and stayed at the Batchelder home.

The two worked together until Batchelder was appointed to the Superior Court in 1970. Murphy continued to practice law in Plymouth where he was involved in many community activities and was the first varsity football coach at Plymouth State University, which each year presents an award in his name. Before he was appointed to the trial court bench, Murphy also served as a special justice of the Plymouth District Court and for three years was clerk of the Grafton County Superior Court in North Haverhill.

"He is such a decent and honorable human being," Batchelder said today of Murphy. "People who appeared before him in court were treated with respect and dignity, whatever their station in life," Batchelder said.

As chief justice of the trial court, Murphy presided over the administration of the Superior Court system, with 11 courthouses around the state and 245 employees, including 28 judges, 10 marital masters, and 11 court clerks. The Superior Court, the only level of court in the state where jury trials are conducted, handles about 53,000 civil and criminal cases and related filings each year.

In a letter to Governor Craig Benson delivered today, Murphy asked that his successor as Chief Justice be appointed from among the judges now sitting in the Superior Court "to ensure continuity in Superior Court operations." Murphy said he will continue to serve as a senior justice, sitting by designation of the Chief Justice.

Supreme Court Chief Justice David A. Brock said that as chief judge of the trial court, Murphy worked closely with the Supreme Court on a wide range of administrative issues, including staffing and budget issues. Brock commended Murphy for his long devotion to the judicial system and for his sense of humor, which often helped lighten the most difficult discussions.

"We are going to miss him," said Brock who has known Murphy since Murphy’s days as the Grafton County court clerk.

Before he was named Chief Justice in October 2000 by then Governor Jeanne Shaheen, Murphy served as supervisory judge of the two busiest trial courts in the state, located in Manchester and Nashua. During his career, he also served on two key Supreme Court committees. While he was a private practitioner in Plymouth, Murphy served for nine years on the Professional Conduct Committee, which investigates complaints against lawyers. As a trial judge, he was also a member of the Judicial Conduct Committee, which oversees the conduct of state judges.

In 1999, Murphy was awarded the first William A. Grimes Award for Judicial Professionalism which is presented annually by the New Hampshire Bar Association. He has been an adjunct faculty member at the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord and continues to present continuing legal education programs for the Bar Association. He has also served on the faculty of the National Judicial College at the University of Nevada in Reno.

Murphy and his wife of 41 years, Joan, live in Bedford. They have five children and eight grandchildren.

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