Women’s History Month: Women of Justice. Sandra Day O’Connor. Judith N. Keep. Margaret Chase Smith. Diana E. Murphy.

Women of Justice: Diana E. Murphy

This is part four of a four part series celebrating Women's History Month

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Did you know that out of more than 165 named U.S. Courthouses across the country, there are only four that bear the name of a woman? In honor of Women’s History Month, take a moment to learn more about these women and the buildings that have been named for them.

Diana E. Murphy U.S. Courthouse

Minneapolis, MN

Photo of Judge Murphy

The Honorable Judge Diana E. Murphy was born Diana E. Kuske in 1934, in Faribault, Minnesota. She earned her Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from the University of Minnesota in 1954 and studied history on a Fulbright Scholarship at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany. She enrolled in law school at the University of Minnesota at the age of 37. She received her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, in 1974, and was Order of the Coif and editor of the Minnesota Law Review.

After law school, Judge Murphy entered into private practice. In 1976, she was appointed to the Hennepin County Municipal Court and then to the Hennepin County District Court, where she served from 1978 to 1980. Appointed by President Carter in February 1980, she became the first woman to serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and the first woman to serve as chief judge of a district court in the Eighth Circuit, a position she held from 1992-1994.

In 1994, President Clinton appointed Judge Murphy as the first woman to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In 1999, breaking barriers beyond the federal courts, Judge Murphy was appointed the first woman to chair the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an office she held until 2004.

In November 2016, Judge Murphy assumed senior status on the circuit court. She died in Minneapolis on May 16, 2018, not long after announcing her retirement from the bench. Judge Murphy was active in many judicial and legal organizations, including as President and founding member of the Federal Judges Association.

Completed in 1997, the Diana E. Murphy U.S. Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn., is home to both the U.S. District and Bankruptcy Courts. Standing 30 stories, the courthouse features a modern steel-frame and stone-face design and has won GSA Design Excellence Awards for both architecture and landscaping. It was named for Judge Murphy on October 16, 2019.

Murphy Courthouse Image

Firsts for Judge Murphy:

  • First woman to be Chief Judge of a district court in the Eighth Circuit
  • First woman to be a U.S. District Judge in Minnesota
  • First woman to be Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota
  • First woman appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
  • First woman to chair the U.S. Sentencing Commission
Last Reviewed: 2021-09-09