Next month, Nassau County District Court Judge Terence Murphy will trade his robes for a U.S. Army uniform. The 57-year-old state judge and Army judge advocate general has been called to active duty and will be deployed to Kuwait later this year. Tomorrow is his last day at the Hempstead courthouse.
For the past two years Murphy has presided over the Nassau Veterans Treatment Court, a special part that oversees cases involving service members who have pleaded guilty to non-violent misdemeanors and some felonies.
He is the only active military judge presiding over a New York veterans treatment court.
Such courts, of which there are 17 in the state, aim to divert nonviolent veteran offenders from the criminal justice system by providing them with special treatment and support services. The first, in Buffalo, opened in 2008. They are modeled after other specialized courts that address mental health and drug abuse issues.
"As a veteran myself, I can relate to those I see in the part, as they relate to me, as one veteran to another," Murphy said. "The camaraderie and the nature of the court is such that veterans are able to reach back to their military experience—the discipline, dedication and commitment to succeed. They are able to relate to one another and find strength in the successes and failures of others going through their treatments."
Murphy (See Profile) said former service members who come before him frequently battle alcohol or drug addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder, anger management issues or other conditions requiring medical treatment. They must agree to complete a specialized treatment program as an alternative to incarceration. Upon successful completion, the service members have the chance to plea to a lesser offense or dismissal of charges.
Since the Nassau County veterans court opened in November 2011, 25 veterans have successfully "graduated," while three have failed. Another 44 service members have ongoing cases in the part, while 17 are being screened for possible participation.
"The most important advice I give the participants is that their case is not just about them," Murphy said. "Every time one of them successfully completes [the program] it opens the door wider for other veterans faced with criminal charges to take advantage of special assistance and support."
He added, "I remind them to put the mission first, their fellow service members second and their own interests last."
Nassau County District Court Judge Anna Anzalone (See Profile), who presides over other specialized treatment courts, will take over during Murphy’s approximately one-year absence.
In early June, Lieutenant Colonel Murphy will report to his unit, the 143rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) in Orlando, Fla., before heading to training at Ford Hood, Texas. He will be deployed to Kuwait in the next few months.
As a U.S. Army staff judge advocate general, Murphy provides legal advice on military justice matters for the command. His unit provides strategic logistical support in expeditionary operations across Kuwait and Afghanistan.
He has served in the military for more than 25 years. Murphy joined the Army after high school and served on active duty for three years. After a 15-year break in his service, he enlisted for the Army Reserves in 1991 while a student at Touro Law Center because he said it was his "hope and desire," to be part of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
This is his third deployment following stints in Iraq in 2005 and Bosnia in 2002. In Iraq, Murphy worked with the Iraqi judiciary to investigate and prepare a criminal case against former president Saddam Hussein.
He worked as a law secretary for former Nassau County District Court Judges Jerald Carter and Jack Mackston before being elected to his term in 2009.
He is married with three sons ages 19, 16, and 13.
"They’re anxious," Murphy said. "But they’re very supportive and recognize this is an obligation I have, and they’re willing to sacrifice as well so that I can serve my country."
Murphy said his career follows in the footsteps of his own father, former Nassau County Supreme Court Justice George Murphy, a World War II veteran, who served for 24 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve.
"Judge Terence Murphy is an extraordinary patriot who continues to serve his country with honor and integrity in the United States Armed Forces," said Nassau County Administrative Judge Thomas Adams (See Profile). "As the presiding judge of the Nassau County Veterans Court, Judge Murphy has created a legacy of fairness and respect for the residents of Nassau County."
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