Murphy, Denis (1870-1948)

Denis Murphy was the B.C. Supreme Court judge who turned down the habeas corpus application of the South Asian passengers on the Panama Maru in 1913. This was the decision that Chief Justice Gordon Hunter overturned, briefly invalidating the regulations that kept out immigrants from India and as a consequence encouraging the passengers of the Komagata Maru to make their voyage. At that time, Murphy had been on the B.C. Supreme Court for four years. He was in fact the first ever British Columbia born member of the Supreme Court. He had been born to Catholic Irish parents on a ranch in at Lac la Hache in the Cariboo. His Irish father was a gold miner who came to B.C. via California and when he had made enough money, married a woman he met in California. The two of them managed to send four of their five children to university, including Denis who attended university in Ottawa and articled in law in Victoria. For two years, from 1900 to1902, Denis Murphy represented Yale in the B.C. legislature. He was appointed to the Supreme Court of B.C. in 1909 and served there until 1941.

Sources: Wesley Pue, Law School the Story of Legal Education in British Columbia, (Faculty of Law, UBC, online publication, 1995); B.C. Archives: B.C. Heritage, People of the Cariboo, Denis Murphy, webpage.