Honorable James M. Murphy
Sep 22, 1928 – May 3, 2017
The Honorable James M. Murphy, retired Douglas County District Court judge, passed away peacefully on May 3, 2017, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.
A humble champion of the less fortunate, Murphy never wavered in his strong belief that everyone deserves a fair chance, that all people are truly equal, and that it’s never too late to change a life and make the world a better place.
Murphy was born on Sept. 22, 1928, in Omaha. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Creighton University in 1952 and his Juris Doctor from the Creighton School of Law in 1954.
After serving in the U.S. Army for two years, he began a private law practice in Omaha in 1956.
Murphy served as Deputy County Attorney for Douglas County from 1961 to 1968, when he was elected to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. Murphy left the board to serve as assistant to Omaha Mayor Gene Leahy from 1969 to 1972, then returned to the Douglas County Attorney’s office, this time as Chief Deputy County Attorney, until 1976.
In 1977, Murphy was appointed by then Gov. J. James Exon as District Court Judge for the Fourth Judicial District. He served as presiding judge from 1979 to 1980 and 1990 to 1991.
He served as president of the National Conference of Metropolitan Courts from 1981 to 1982, and in 1983, he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award for Outstanding Service. He resumed leadership of the conference in 1995 and hosted the event in Omaha in September of 1996. The conference was attended by the presiding judges of the nation’s largest cities. He was elected chairman of the conference’s board a year later.
Murphy stepped down from the District Court in 1997, but his days on the bench were not over. That year, he established the Drug Court in Douglas County, the first court of its kind in Nebraska. He was appointed presiding judge of the Drug Court the next year and was awarded the Omaha Bar Association Award for Public Service for his efforts. His work on the state’s first Drug Court also earned him the Alumni Merit Award from the Creighton School of Law, the State Judiciary Award for Community Service, presented by then Chief Justice John Hendry, and the George Turner Award from the Nebraska Bar Association.
Murphy’s devotion to the Drug Court lasted another 11 years. He retired fully in March 2009. That year, the Nebraska Supreme Court recognized and commended him “for his dedication to making drug courts work in Nebraska and for the significant contributions he has made to the lives of so many drug court participants over the past 12 years.”
Murphy was preceded in death by his first wife, Kathryn; second wife, Sally; daughter, Marguerite Cavallaro; and stepdaughter, Bernie Rivard. Also preceding him were his brothers, Jerry, Charles, Dan, and Bill; and parents, Dr. Charles and Marguerite Murphy.
He is survived by his sister, Margaret Malloy; sister-in-law, Betty Murphy; son-in-law, Nick Cavallaro III (Becky); grandsons, Nick Cavallaro IV; James Cavallaro (Danielle), and great-grandaughter, Olivia; and Cory Cavallaro; stepdaughters, Julie Cain (Bret), Jean Lanphier (Pat), and Barb Rivard; and devoted friend and caretaker, Jan Caughlin. He is also survived by a son, Matthew Murphy, and grandsons Sean and Joe, as well as many loving nieces, nephews, step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren.
VISITATION Sunday, May 7th from 3pm to 5pm, with VIGIL SERVICE AND ROSARY at 5pm at the Bel Air Chapel, 12100 W. Center Rd. MASS OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL Monday, May 8th at 10am at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 22nd & Binney St. Interment, Calvary Cemetery with military honors by Millard American Legion Post 374 & VFW Post 8334. Memorials are suggested to Sacred Heart Catholic Church.