SAN FRANCISCO – The vacancy on a San Francisco
County Superior Court bench, prompted by the retirement of Judge Lillian Sing
nearly a year and a half ago, was filled by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. on
Dec. 24, 2016.
The appointment of San Francisco native Stephen M.
Murphy, who possesses more than 30 years in the legal profession, is a departure
from the 18 years he has served as a sole practitioner of employment law.
Previously he worked as a partner at Bianco and Murphy (1992 to 1999), Bianco,
Brandi and Murphy (1992), and Bianco, Brandi and Jones (1988 to 1991) after
starting out there as an associate.
California Record asked Murphy if he
was surprised by the appointment. He stated that while he had been looking for
something like this for years, he was still left pleasantly startled by the
When questioned as to why it took so long for the
vacancy to be filled, Murphy declined to guess, but said to “ask the governor
that.” The future judge also told the
that there were still “two to three vacancies left to fill.”
Officially, Superior Court justices in California, as
well as 17 other states, are selected by a nonpartisan election process amongst sitting justices that awards the top
candidate the nomination. Unofficially, many nominations, like Murphy’s, are
done through gubernatorial appointments. A mid-term vacancy would also require
Murphy told the Northern
California Record that he expects to be sworn into office sometime in
February. In the meantime, he has been attending to turning over his firm to P.
Bobby Shukla, a noted female attorney within the practice.
As to what he offers the Superior Court, Murphy said,
“I have a lot of trial experience and I hope to bring that to a jury trial.”
California does not allow a new judge to sit in on a jury trial until a bit
later in their tenure, similar to a probationary period.
The step up for Murphy has not curbed his ambition.
During the interview, Murphy said, “I want to get a taste of trial court, but I
haven’t thought beyond that.”
A bit later he did concede that he would not turn
down a spot on the appeals court.
“I’m very excited to be joining the San Francisco
Superior Court,” Murphy stated, “It is a prestigious court.”
California is unique in
that Superior Courts have jurisdiction over a wide array of cases involving
limited civil actions, misdemeanors, and other infractions that would normally
be heard by inferior courts. This has made the case load for County Superior
Courts rather burdensome and is aggravated by the other vacant position(s).
To make matters worse, when the economy went
into recession in 2009, California resorted to austerity measures in an effort
to cope with a 10 percent budgetary cut for the Courts. All 59 county Superior Courts
were reduced to operating on four-day work week.