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Feature

The Honorable Diana Murphy

The Honorable Diana Murphy, U.S. court of Appeals Eighth Circuit judge

A good judge of character

UMAA Member Profile: Diana Murphy

By Erin Peterson

From M, winter 2006

The Honorable Diana Murphy (B.A. '54, J.D. '74) wasn't seeking the bench when she graduated from the University's law school. She had just begun work in private practice after nearly 20 years of other endeavors, including raising two children and completing coursework for a Ph.D. in history. Nonetheless, when Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson (B.A. '54, J.D. '60) asked her to become a judge for the Hennepin County Municipal Court in 1976, she couldn't refuse the opportunity.

In her three decades on the bench - currently as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit - she has presided over dramatic murder trials and antitrust cases, but she finds her work as an appellate judge equally appealing and well-suited to her deliberative style. "People should know how much study and care and attention go into decisions that judges make," Murphy says. "In the court I'm on now, I may work many months on a particular decision."

how to join: To join the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, or to learn more about membership and its benefits, call 612-624-2323 or 800-862-5867, or visit the UMAA website.

Murphy has been a pioneer for women judges. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated her for the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, making her the first woman in Minnesota to serve in that capacity. In 1994, President Bill Clinton nominated her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth District and she became the first woman judge on that bench. Though proud to have broken new ground, Murphy believes there is more work to do. "Times have changed, but sometimes not as much as you might think," she says. "Since I was appointed [to my current position], there have been seven other judges appointed as vacancies have occurred. All have been men."

"Times have changed, but sometimes not as much as you might think," she says. "Since I was appointed [to my current position], there have been seven other judges appointed as vacancies have occurred. All have been men."

Murphy's experience and manner have served her well in the roles she has played at the University, including as national president of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association for 1981-82, where she engaged fellow alumni in advocating for the University, and as immediate past chair of the University of Minnesota Foundation's board of trustees, which adopted a new strategic plan for University-wide development during her term.

"People have to decide for themselves how they want to give back to the University to help others achieve the kind of education that they did," says Murphy, a life member of the alumni association. "What happens when you're a student there can affect the way you feel about it for the rest of your life."

She continues: "For me, the University opened up the world. I felt I had the world--and all its knowledge--at my fingertips."

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