U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy said Wednesday that he will retire from the federal bench on Dec. 1.
Murphy, 64, was appointed to the federal bench in 1997 by President Bill Clinton. He was recommended by U.S. Sens. Carol Moseley Braun and Dick Durbin. When he was appointed, he was a sole practitioner in Marion.
Murphy sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Dec. 4, announcing his decision and giving notice of his impending retirement. He will continue to serve until Dec. 1. Murphy said Wednesday that he intends to return to private practice in Marion "the day after he retires."
A Vietnam veteran who worked his way through law school by mopping floors in a truck stop, moving furniture and driving a truck, Murphy went on to fill the vacancy left when William D. Stiehl went into "senior status," or a partial retirement.
Murphy presided over the case of Everett V. and Eileen Shepard, who pleaded guilty to swindling a retired East St. Louis teacher out of her life savings.
"The days of wine and roses are over and it's now going to be butter beans and Kool-Aid," Murphy told Eileen Shepard, a former social worker at the former St. Mary's Hospital in East St. Louis, as he sentenced her to prison for 18 months for stealing $165,000 from Beatrice Neely.
Murphy also presided over the vote fraud trial of former Democratic party boss Charlie Powell and four East St. Louis City Hall employees: Jesse Lewis, Sheila Thomas, Kelvin Ellis and Yvette Johnson.
Murphy was an outspoken opponent of federal sentencing guidelines that bound judges to sentence according to pre-written formulas. Murphy voiced his opinion on the CBS' "60 Minutes."
Murphy sentenced Eugenia Jennings, a drug addicted mother of three who suffered abuse throughout her life, to nearly 22 years in federal prison when she was caught with crack cocaine. During her sentence, Murphy called Jennings' story "as grim a one as I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them. Her life has been one of tragedy, abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, abandonment."
In October 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the guidelines should be used in an advisory capacity to ensure uniformity in sentencing federal defendants.
Jennings' sentence was commuted to eight years in prison in November 2011 by Obama. She was released in December 2011.
It isn't clear how long it will take to replace Murphy. Durbin must recommend a candidate to Obama who will put the matter to a vote before the full Senate.
To fill past judicial vacancies, Durbin has requested applications, then formed a committee to review the applications. The screening committee recommends which of the candidates Durbin should put forward to the president.
Current U.S. District Chief Judge David Herndon doesn't know how long it will take to fill Murphy's vacancy, but the southern district of Illinois has one of the largest dockets in the country, because of multi-jurisdictional litigations, including lawsuits against makers of the birth control drug Yaz and the anti-coagulant drug Pradaxa, Herndon said.
Herndon, U.S. District Judges Michael Reagan and J. Phil Gilbert and Senior Judge Stiehl and Magistrate Judges Philip Frazier, Donald Wilkerson and Stephen Williams will divvy up the docket after Murphy's retirement. If the caseload becomes backed up, Herndon said they could ask for a visiting judge to move some cases.
Murphy served as chief judge from 2000 to 2007.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2570.