Press release based on the talk given by Dwight Murphey to the Colorado Springs Executive Association on June 8, 1966:

 

MURPHEY ENDORSES CONSERVATIVE LEGAL PHILOSOPHY IN SPEECH TO COLORADO SPRINGS EXECUTIVE GROUP

 

In a speech endorsing “the classical liberal concept of the Rule of Law,” Dwight D. Murphey, a Republican candidate for district judge, told the Colorado Springs Executive Association Wednesday morning that “there are competing philosophies of law in the United States, and the philosophy prevailing in our higher appellate courts is not consistent with a free society.”

Murphey took issue with a recent speech by Thurgood Marshall, Solicitor General of the United States, who favored a “new concept of law” under which law would “shake free of the 19th Century moorings” and would become an “effective instrument of social policy.”

Murphey said that such a view of the law “is far more compatible with the legal system of an authoritarian society than with that of a free people.  The conservative, or classical liberal, view of law is as a structured framework to aid and sustain free and voluntary action, as by the enforcement of contracts and the protection of persons and property.”

“This is the meaning of the old phrase ‘liberty under law,’” Murphey told the businessmen.  “It is absolutely opposed to the view that law is the pliable instrument of the social planner, whose own legal flexibility leads to the regimentation of the people.  Under the Rule of Law as traditionally understood, law is purposefully kept stable and certain in its content, so that free men can count on it in planning their own affairs.”

Murphey spoke at the weekly breakfast meeting of the Colorado Springs Executive Association held Wednesday morning at Ruth’s Oven.  His speech was devoted almost entirely to judicial philosophy and Constitutional law.

“The great Constitutional issue today,” Murphey said, “would not seem to concern how the Constitution should be interpreted, but indeed whether the Constitution in its historic meaning is relevant at all.  There are many whose actions seem to say simply that the Constitution is no longer pertinent and that we must ignore it.”

He referred to the recent controversy within the local bar association over whether the bar association should endorse a federal War on Poverty legal aid program in El Paso county.

“The federal government has no Constitutional role that it can play in financing any project so purely local as legal aid to the poor.  All of the early presidents would have vetoed such a federal appropriation.”

“I am at a loss,” Murphey said, “to understand how such a federal program can be Constitutionally justified.  No one I have talked with even attempts to justify it.  They simply say we must be practical and that practicality involves leaving the Constitution out of the equation.”

Murphey stated that “the great practical men of history were the men who created a free society in America.  They were, in addition to being practical, men of principle.”

“What is called the pragmatic philosophy today,” Murphey said, is what the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega would call intellectual barbarism.  It is a rootless philosophy of doing that which is considered temporarily convenient.”

“A man devoted to the enduring principles of a free civilization is neither rootless nor short-sightedly pragmatic, but is practical and down-to-earth in the sense that he is keeping in mind the long-term consequences of events,” Murphey said.  “He knows that human well-being will not best be served in the long run by making temporary expediency the excuse for ignoring and destroying the noblest achievement in history: the American Constitution.”

“Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are excellent examples,” Murphey continued, “of men who were intensely practical and yet also devoted to principle.”

Murphey told the businessmen that “there is very little that I will be able to do, at least right away, in behalf of sound judicial philosophy if I am elected.  I will be a beginning judge in a state court on the trial court level, doing day-to-day court business.”

“The significance of my candidacy,” he concluded, “is in connection with the reawakening conservative movement, which is represented primarily by young people a half a generation younger than myself.  I am told that the law schools today have a great many conservative students.  If that is correct, then it won’t be many years until the ideas I am defending today will again be truly relevant and alive in this country and in our courts.”

 

 

[Note: While this speech was well received by the group to which he was speaking, Murphey was kept off the ballot, as a Republican, by the local Republican organization when it invoked a technicality about when, after moving to Colorado Springs from Denver, he had declared his membership in the Party. He had been a registered Republican in Denver for several years. He then ran for the judgeship as an independent and lost.  This led on to an academic rather than a judicial career.]