Bruce Allen Murphy
Bruce Allen Murphy, Ph.D., is a judicial biographer and scholar of American Constitutional law and politics. He is the Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, a position he has held since 1998. Prior to that appointment, he was a professor of Political Science and a professor of American History and Politics at Pennsylvania State University. He was also a Fellow of the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies while at Penn State.
Early life and education
Born and raised in Abington, Massachusetts, Murphy is a 1973 summa cum laude graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. While there, he was a student of Professors Dean Alfange, Jr. and Sheldon Goldman. In 1978, Murphy received his Ph.D. in Government and Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia where he studied with Professors Henry J. Abraham and Robert J. Harris.
Professor Murphy is the author of four judicial biographies, the co-author of a text book, and the editor of a reader. In addition, he is the author of many book chapters, speeches, and articles in professional journals.
Professor Murphy's first book, The Brandeis/Frankfurter Connection: The Secret Political Activities of Two Supreme Court Justices, published in 1982 by Oxford University Press, was the subject of a front-page story in the Sunday New York Times. The book contained details about the financial relationship between Justice Louis D. Brandeis and then-Harvard law professor Felix Frankfurter. While on the Court, Brandeis provided Frankfurter with funds to promote a variety of political reforms. The book sparked a national debate about the ethics of extrajudicial activities by Supreme Court justices. It received a Certificate of Merit from the American Bar Association.
In 1988, Professor Murphy's second book, Fortas: The Rise and Ruin of a Supreme Court Justice, followed the life and career of Abe Fortas who resigned from the U.S. Supreme Court after his close political ties to President Lyndon B. Johnson and his financial relationship with Louis Wolfson, a potential litigant before the Court, came to light. Published by William Morrow & Co., it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and a National Book Award.
A later biography, Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas, was published in 2003 by Random House. This is the only definitive biography of the longest-serving Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. This biography describes, "the genius and warts of William O. Douglas, arguably the greatest influence on American jurisprudence." Although Douglas served as a justice for over thirty-six years, his life was, "largely about political intrigue, because, as Murphy documents, Bill Douglas was, at his core, an ambitious politician. He was constantly running for political office, seeking political appointments and playing politics."
His latest book, Scalia: A Court of One, published by Simon & Schuster in June, 2014, is the compelling story of Antonin Scalia, one of the most polarizing figures ever to serve on the nation's highest court. It provides an analysis of Scalia's role on a Court that, like him, has moved well to the political right, losing public support, and ignoring public criticism. To the delight of his substantial conservative following, Scalia's "originalism" theory has become the litmus test of analyzing, if not always deciding, cases. But this book argues that Scalia's judicial conservatism is informed as much by his highly traditional Catholicism, mixed with his political partisanship, as by his reading of the Constitution. Murphy analyzes Scalia's role in major court decisions since the mid-1980s and scrutinizes the ethical controversies that have dogged Scalia in recent years.
In addition to his judicial biographies, Professor Murphy is the co-author (with Larry Berman) of an American Government textbook, Approaching Democracy, with Pearson Education, now in its eighth edition. He is also the editor of a reader, Portraits of American Politics with Houghton Mifflin Company.
Throughout his academic career, Murphy has taught political science, history, and Constitutional law courses including: American Constitutional Law, Liberty in the United States, The First Amendment, Introduction to U.S. Politics, The American Presidency, and seminars on judicial biography. He has received numerous awards for his teaching, including inter alia:
- Citation Award winner and Finalist for national "Professor of the Year" from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (1984–87)
- Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching (1987)
- Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award (2011)
- Murphy, Bruce Allen, The Brandeis/Frankfurter Connection: The Secret Political Activities of Two Supreme Court Justices, Oxford University Press, 1982
- New York Times, 14 Feb 1982, pg. 1
- Murphy, Bruce Allen, Fortas: The Rise and Ruin of a Supreme Court Justice, William Morrow & Co., 1988
- Murphy, Bruce Allen, Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas, Random House, 2003