As the confirmation proceedings continue for the successor to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Public Interest Law Fellow (PILF) Alexandria Murphy, JD ’21 felt a calling to witness history as the second woman to serve on the court was laid to rest.
Murphy and her sister, Samantha, drove 10 hours to Washington, DC to join the mourners gathered outside the Supreme Court, where Ginsburg served as associate justice for 27 years until her passing on September 18. As the sisters stood across the street from the nation’s highest court with the press in the early morning of September 23, they saw Ginsburg’s casket carried up the steps into the Great Hall while at least 100 of her former law clerks formed an honor guard.
“It was really quiet, no one was talking,” Murphy said. “At 9:30, the hearse pulled up escorted by Capitol police cruisers. It was so inspiring just to be there.”
The next day, before returning home, the Murphy's stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court again just after the President’s visit and viewed the casket on the steps surrounded by flowers. Due to her proximity to the press, Murphy and her sister were interviewed by Boston’s Channel 7 news.
Referring to Ginsburg as “small but mighty,” Murphy said the former justice has inspired her for a long time “because of the opinions she wrote and her notorious dissent. She went above and beyond in that the opinions she wrote affected so many people. She is a revered part of the U.S. Supreme Court and my sister and I wanted to go.”
As a member of a military family, Murphy cites Ginsburg’s 1973 argument on behalf of the ACLU in the Frontiero v. Richardson case as one of her most memorable. The case granted the same spousal benefits to military service members regardless of gender.
While in DC, Murphy was still able to attend remote law classes from her room at the Capitol Hill Hotel. “I was very glad I went. I was very grateful that classes were online so I could go. I went to experience it. These events are important to me as a law student and a woman.”
After she returned from DC, Murphy spoke on a panel hosted by the law school about Justice Ginsburg’s impact.
Murphy is not the first in her family to witness history. One of her great-grandfathers, James Murphy, was a sailor on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945 and saw the leaders of the United States and Japan sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender to end World War II.
Another great-grandfather and Navy sailor, Donald Charest, served as an honor guard escorting the horse-drawn wagon carrying former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to his funeral service on April 15, 1945 in Hyde Park, New York. Murphy was able to meet Roosevelt’s great-grandson more than 70 years later during a 2016 service at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
Served as a Congressional intern twice
During that time, Murphy was a junior at Worcester State University and had been awarded a Running Start Congressional Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to encourage young women to become involved in politics. She was one of just seven legislative fellows selected from the U.S. to receive a full-time stipend and was assigned to the office of Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Latina congresswomen representing Miami Dade County in Florida.
Murphy attended workshops on how to run, fund, and advertise a political campaign as well as hearings on Capitol Hill. She met former President Barack Obama; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Caitlyn Jenner, as she lobbied for transgender rights; and the governor of Florida when he was seeking assistance for the Zika virus. Murphy said that the large amount of research and writing she did in this fellowship was helpful in law school. The following year, she worked at the office of MA Congressman Joe Kennedy, III.
Aspires to serve in JAG Corps
After graduating from law school, Murphy hopes to continue her family’s U.S. Navy tradition as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and would become the first woman in her family to serve as an active duty officer. Her mother, UMassD alumna Diana Wilson Murphy ’94, is a civilian paralegal for the Newport Navy base.
Murphy has applied to the JAG Corps and hopes to attend the U.S. Navy Officer Development School located at Naval Station Newport for five weeks. If accepted, she would follow up with ten weeks of training at Naval Justice School, also in Newport. As an officer, she could serve on naval bases in Germany, Italy, Japan, North Africa, Hawaii, or Newport.
In the fall of 2019, Murphy worked as a JAG intern in Groton, CT with three lieutenant junior grade JAGs She worked on court martial cases, pre-trial procedures, evidence gathering, legal assistance for JAG clients, and assisted lawyers as they acted as personal attorneys in trusts and estates, divorces, custody issues, and wills.
She was recently named an intern for CAAFlog.org,, where she will research and summarize the latest cases on military criminal justice, particularly military tribunal decisions and appeals.
Murphy chose UMass Law after graduating from Worcester State with a major in communication and a minor in pre-law. “UMass Law has great student job placements after graduation and high bar pass rates. Receiving the PILF was an amazing opportunity. I wouldn’t be able to go to law school without this scholarship. I’ve met a lot of incredible people through this fellowship and the events we’ve had on campus.”
UMass Law student involvement
Murphy co-coordinated the law school’s Walk to the Hill event for the last two years to advocate for funding for civil legal aid. During those two years, UMass Law received an award for the most law school participants.
She is also president of the International Law Students Association and a member of the International Moot Court team. She was inspired by Dr. Rainer Schackner, an international law professor from Germany, who taught at UMass Law last semester. “JAG lawyers have to deal with international law and contracts. I wanted to examine it for myself and bring events to students at the law school,” she said.