07/06/2018 -
The Florence K. Murray Award is presented to a person who, by example or otherwise, has influenced women to pursue legal careers, opened doors for women attorneys, or advanced opportunities for women within the legal profession. The award is named in honor of the first recipient, Honorable Florence K. Murray, who, in a distinguished 56 years at the bar, pioneered the causes of women in the law as the first woman attorney elected to the Rhode Island Senate, the first woman Justice on the Superior Court, the first woman Presiding Justice of the Superior Court, and the first woman on the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Florence K. Murray Award winner Dennis J. Roberts II surrounded by four of the women judges who nominated him for the Award: (l to r) RI District Court Associate Judge Madeline Quirk, RI Superior Court Associate Justice Susan E. McGuirl, RI Supreme Court Associate Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg, and RI Family Court Associate Justice Laureen Q. D’Ambra.

Dennis J. Roberts II
, former Rhode Island Attorney General, is honored with the Rhode Island Bar Association’s 2018 Florence K. Murray Award. Attorney Roberts graduated with an A.B. from Fordham University in 1963 and from Boston College Law School, where he served as editor of the law review, with an LL.B in 1966. During 1966-67, he was law clerk to Chief Judge Edward W. Day of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. Upon completion of his clerkship, he entered the private practice of law. From 1967 to 1978 he was attorney for the Rhode Island Consumers' Council with principal responsibility for drafting consumer protection legislation and representation of the public interest before state and federal regulatory agencies. He also maintained an active litigation practice. Mr. Roberts was elected Attorney General of Rhode Island in 1978 and was re-elected in 1980 and 1982. In the l980s, Mr. Roberts calculated that he had tried over 200 cases to completion before a jury over the years and had been responsible, as Attorney General, for thousands of other cases under his direct supervision. He is a member of the Rhode Island and New York bars, the bar of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island,  the bar of the United States Supreme Court, and the United States Courts of Appeals for the First, Fifth and District of Columbia Circuits. Mr. Roberts has served as Chair of the Rhode Island Bar Examiners and of the Diocese of Providence Advisory Board for the Protection of Children and Young People. He is a member or director of a number of civic and philanthropic organizations, and was the recipient of the 2014 Lumen Gentium Award for public service. In his current practice, Mr. Roberts has a general civil litigation responsibility as well as a significant government relations practice, relating to lobbying and administrative law.

According to a letter undersigned by six women members of the Rhode Island Judiciary, including Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg, Superior Court Associate Justice Melanie Wilk Thunberg, Superior Court Associate Justice Susan E. McGuirl, Family Court Associate Justice Laureen Q. D’Ambra, Family Court Associate Justice Debra E. DiSegna, and District Court Associate Justice Madeline Quirk, Because of his commitment to expand the role of women at the bar and in the courtrooms, our professional careers were greatly enhanced. Denny Roberts believed in women, he trusted the women lawyers in the Department of Attorney General and he delegated significant responsibility and discretion to the Assistant and Special Assistant Attorneys General. Denny Roberts named the first female Deputy Attorney General, the first full female Assistant Attorneys General. In addition, he had little patience for anyone who bemoaned the fact that female members of his staff frequently were in charge. One of his greatest contributions in a career long devoted to the bar and our honorable profession was the many women who were given a chance to prove themselves. Throughout her lifetime, Justice Murray pioneered the causes of women at the bar, on the bench and in our state. Denny Roberts, with his quiet dignity and unfailing kindness and courtesy, not only reflects those ideals, he has lived them.