Ode to Dennis Murphy
One day during my training, Dennis had former clients come talk to our new class of public defenders before officially going into the trenches. We learned from, asked questions of, and got advice from those who matter most. What we learned that day was invaluable. What it meant to each of us, past, present and future is impossible to measure. My officemate took vigorous notes and then at the office hung those notes above her desk as a reminder of the kind of lawyer clients want and need. Years into her practice she still has those notes.
- Be forceful.
- Be a bulldog like the prosecutor.
- Be assertive.
- Empower your client & have them participate in their own defense.
- Explain what's going on. Explain the resources & how to access them.
- Don't underestimate your client's intelligence.
- Build rapport immediately.
- Take your client seriously. They can be helpful to the case.
- Show your client their paper work.
- Be straight forward, direct & honest with your client.
- If you tell your client what to expect they are empowered with knowledge.
- If their anxiety is high eventually they may lash out at you.
- Give your clients CHOICE. And respect their CHOICES.
In a class made up mostly of women, Dennis took the time to empower us, creating the space for us to address concerns directly related to what it meant to do this work as a woman. He invited other young women public defenders to come and talk to us to provide their insight. He reminded each of us to always be who we were because that was exactly what was needed. He reminded our entire class, as I imagine he did classes before, to be good people and to love our clients always, no matter what.
But Dennis did not just tell us to love our clients, he led by example, he graciously passed the mic to our clients and others with different lessons to offer, because what our clients had to teach us was just as important as what he could teach us. Thank you for always honoring our clients and being a living experience of what it means to love our clients. At the end of the day, to be a good public defender, you must first be a good person, and you were a great person.
R.I.P. – Dennis Murphy you are already deeply missed!
Contributions in memory of Dennis Murphy can be made to the Southern Center for Human Rights at https://www.schr.org/donation
*Special thanks to Rebeka Penberg for sharing her note.