Judge Diana Murphy, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, was a judge for more than four decades and a member of the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees. She served in 1999 as chair of an advisory committee that recommended St. Thomas reopen the law school and was a founding member of its Board of Governors in 2001. She died last May.
“Judge Murphy was a champion and mentor of women lawyers and judges,” said Robert Vischer, School of Law dean. “She said it was ‘a joy’ to see how many women have succeeded, and that she wanted to help other women. We could think of no better tribute to Judge Murphy than to create an endowed scholarship fund through which to invest in future generations of women lawyers.”
Shana Tomenes 3L was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Judge Diana E. Murphy Scholarship.
“Shana is already showing the grit, intellectual firepower, relentless work ethic and tenacity that marked Judge Murphy’s remarkable career,” Vischer said.
Tomenes worked at three part-time jobs while majoring in psychology and minoring in legal studies as an undergraduate at Hamline University.
Now, she volunteers for Street Law and the Washington County Community Circles program, where she helps build bridges among victims, offenders and community members. Tomenes also is the managing editor of the law journal. She clerks for the Hennepin County Public Defender’s office and next year will clerk on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
“I am motivated by my background and my passion to help others in everything I do,” Tomenes said. “As the first person in my family to go to college and law school, I am humbled and grateful for the experience I have received at St. Thomas Law, and know it is both my responsibility and privilege to use my skills to give back to my community.”
Tomenes said her most valuable experience in law school has been through the Appellate Clinic, where she worked with classmate Samantha Hoefs under the supervision of Professor Gregory Sisk. They represented a federal prisoner seeking relief for the pain he suffered while denied medical treatment in prison.
“I loved the experience because not only was I able to practice my skills and serve someone who had faced many legal obstacles in seeking relief, but I was also able to learn hands-on from an amazing expert and mentor,” she said. “Professor Sisk patiently and painstakingly taught me many skills on legal writing and oral advocacy that I will take with me into my future practice.”
When presenting her with the scholarship, Vischer concluded, “When Judge Murphy liked what someone was saying, she would often get a very faint smirk and nod her head very slightly. If she could see what you have done and continue to do with your considerable gifts, Shana, I think you would earn the Judge Murphy smirk-nod.”