Hugh Murray (judge)

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Hugh Murray
3rd Chief Justice of California
In office
March 1852 – September 18, 1857
Preceded byHenry A. Lyons
Succeeded byDavid S. Terry
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
In office
October 11, 1851 – March 1852
Appointed byGovernor John McDougall
Preceded byNathaniel Bennett
Succeeded byStephen Johnson Field
Personal details
Born(1825-04-22)April 22, 1825
St Louis, Missouri
DiedSeptember 18, 1857(1857-09-18) (aged 32)
Sacramento, California

Hugh Campbell Murray (April 22, 1825 – September 18, 1857) was an American lawyer and the third Chief Justice of California.


Murray was born in St Louis, Missouri before his family moved to Alton, Illinois when he was a child.[1] Little is known of his schooling except that he almost certainly studied Latin. In 1846 he began studying at the law firm of N.D. Strong in Alton.[2] On March 8, 1847, following the outbreak of the Mexican–American War he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 14th Infantry Regiment. After the end of the war he resigned his commission on March 31, 1848, and returned to Alton to study.[1][2]

After completing his studies he was called to the Bar and moved to California, where he gained a large circle of friends and a lucrative practice as a lawyer.[3] On January 8, 1850, at the age of 24, he was elected a member of the San Francisco ayuntamiento (town council), and continued to work as a lawyer.[4][2] On April 20, 1850, he was made a Judge of the San Francisco Superior Court.[5] On October 11, 1851, at the age of 26, he was made an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California, the youngest ever appointed.[1][6]

In March 1852, upon the resignation of Henry A. Lyons, he became Chief Justice at the age of 27, the youngest ever Chief Justice of California.[1][7] He was subsequently elected to another term as Chief Justice.[1] As Chief Justice, his annual salary in 1854 was US$8,000.[8]

As Chief Justice, he was noted for his dislike of changing the law through his decisions and for his irascible temper. Having heard that a man had called him "the meanest Chief Justice ever," Murray found the man and beat him with his cane.[9][10] He was consequently fined by the city recorder of Sacramento the sum of $50 plus costs.[11] Murray wrote the majority opinion of the court in People v. Hall, 4 Cal. 399 (1854), which Charles J. McClain describes as "containing some of the most offensive racial rhetoric to be found in the annals of California appellate jurisprudence."[12]

On September 18, 1857, he died in office of consumption.[13] He is interred in Sacramento Historic City Cemetery.[14] In the October 1857 election, Stephen Johnson Field was elected to fill his seat.

Civic activities[edit]

He was a member of the Society of California Pioneers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Oscar Tully Shuck (1901). "Hugh C. Murray". History of the bench and bar of California: being biographies of many remarkable men, a store of humorous and pathetic recollections, accounts of important legislation and extraordinary cases, comprehending the judicial history of the state. Western Americana (reprinted ed.). The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. pp. 436–437. ISBN 9781584777069.
  2. ^ a b c Whittlesey (1941) p. 365.
  3. ^ Johnson, J. Edward (1963). History of the California Supreme Court: The Justices 1850-1900, vol 1 (PDF). San Francisco, CA: Bender Moss Co. p. 43. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  4. ^ "The Election at San Francisco". Placer Times (1 (36)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 19 January 1850. p. 2. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  5. ^ "Supreme Court of California, in memoriam for the late Hugh Murray". Sacramento Daily Union (14 (2037)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 6 October 1857. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  6. ^ Whittlesey (1941) p. 366.
  7. ^ Whittlesey (1941) p. 367.
  8. ^ "California". The American almanac and repository of useful knowledge. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company. 1854. p. 313.
  9. ^ Whittlesey (1941) p. 368.
  10. ^ "Memoirs Are Full of Charm, Cornelius Cole Writes of Notable Events". Los Angeles Herald (35 (193)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 12 April 1908. p. 67. Retrieved July 8, 2017. Meeting Chief Justice Hugh Murray of the state supreme court, In a bookstore one day, he, with much complacency, remarked that he had noticed what I had said about him in the Times that morning, alluding perhaps to some remark about the Andy slave case; continuing, he said: 'Lay on! the skin of my back Is as thick as that on the back of a rhinoceros.' But the judge could hardly have been as callous as he pretended, for about that time he called at the store of Thomas Hill, a reputable merchant of Sacramento, and a Republican of the most pronounced type, who had said something politically offensive about the Judge, which had come to his ears. The judge, armed with a heavy bludgeon, assaulted Hill in his store without warning, In a most cruel manner, knocking him down and disabling him for a long time. Hill was by no means a strong man, and it was thought his life was saved by the circumstance of the bludgeon coming in contact with an overhead beam ln dealing the blow.
  11. ^ John Lowell, ed. (1857). "Miscellany". The Monthly law reporter, Volume 19. American periodical series, 1800–1850. 289–292. Boston: Crosby, Nichols, and Company. p. 171.
  12. ^ Charles J. McClain (1996). "California's First Anti-Chinese Laws". In Search of Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century America. University of California Press. p. 21. ISBN 9780520205147.
  13. ^ Whittlesey (1941) p. 370.
  14. ^ "Sacramento Historic City Cemetery Burial Index" (PDF). Old City Cemetery Committee. 2005. Retrieved April 6, 2011.


  • Camp, Edgar Whittlesey (December 1941). "Hugh C. Murray: California's Youngest Chief Justice". California Historical Society Quarterly. California Historical Society. 20 (4). ISSN 0008-1175.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Henry A. Lyons
Chief Justice of California
March 1852 – September 1857
Succeeded by
David S. Terry
Preceded by
Nathaniel Bennett
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
1851 – March 1852
Succeeded by
Stephen Johnson Field