Yet Another Biden Judicial Pick Has Ties to a Left-Wing, Anti-Cop Group

Brian Murphy served on the board of a group that pushed to free inmates because of 'structural racism'

Brian Murphy (Senate Judiciary Committee/Twitter)
April 17, 2024

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) introduced Biden judicial nominee Brian Murphy as a "staunch and committed advocate" for fairness in the criminal justice system. Murphy's advocacy includes work for a legal group that urges judges to base prison sentences on "structural racism" and backed a bail fund that freed a rapist who committed another rape weeks after his release from jail.

Murphy, President Joe Biden's pick to serve on the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, served until this year on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the "pre-eminent association" of criminal defense lawyers in the commonwealth.

The organization, of which Murphy served as treasurer until last year, offers the kind of legal advocacy expected from a group of criminal defense lawyers. But it has also proposed radical measures to address what it says is "structural racism" rooted in the criminal justice system. During Murphy's tenure, the association called on judges to factor "how structural racism has impacted the defendant's life" before issuing prison sentences.

Judges should embrace a "presumption of release" when making bail decisions due to "concerns about institutional racism," the group asserted in May 2020.

The group has not been as charitable toward police officers. In June 2020, it claimed that police officers "often" use claims that defendants resisted arrest as a "smoke screen for police brutality." The association has argued judges should toss out charges of assault against police officers if the cops failed to record arrests with body cameras.

Murphy, who operates the private firm Murphy & Rudolf, LLP, is the latest Biden nominee whose left-wing affiliations could scuttle his confirmation. Adeel Mangi, Biden's pick for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, faces opposition from Senate Republicans and three Democrats over his board positions with an anti-Israel think tank, an advocacy group that hails cop-killers as "freedom fighters," and a legal aid group that has called to defund police.

The White House and its Democratic allies have accused Republicans of opposing Mangi because of his religion. If confirmed, Mangi would be the first Muslim to serve on a federal appeals court.

Murphy, who is white, served on the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' board of directors from 2014 until earlier this year. He served as its treasurer from 2016 to 2023.

The association, like many other liberal groups, made many of its criminal justice reform proposals during the anti-police protests following the death of George Floyd.

The association in August 2020 issued a strong endorsement of the Massachusetts Bail Fund after the fund came under fire for paying the $15,000 bail for Shawn McClinton, who was in jail awaiting trial on charges of raping a woman in a McDonald's bathroom in 2018. McClinton was already a registered sex offender stemming from his conviction for a rape in 2007.

After the outcry, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said it "stand[s] behind" the bail fund and its "life-saving work." It touted the bail fund's slogan of "Free Them All," a call to release all inmates held on bail.

It is unclear what role Murphy played in developing the association's policy positions. He was not asked during Wednesday's Senate Judiciary hearing about his affiliation with the group. He did not respond to a request for comment.