High-profile lawyers break partnership in 'amicable' split

Flamboyant criminal defense lawyers William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr. and M. Cristina Gutierrez have parted ways after years of sharing controversy and high-profile clients.

The long-rumored professional split became official yesterday, when receptionists began answering the phone "Murphy and Associates" at the partners' Calvert Street office, and Ms. Gutierrez completed the task of moving into the downtown firm of Redmond, Burgin & Cruz, where she will have a limited affiliation.


Ms. Gutierrez, a divorced mother of two, called the breakup "amicable" and said that she was hoping to better control her workload and spend more time with her family.

"I am sorry to see her go," Mr. Murphy said yesterday. "I have nothing but love, respect and admiration for her tremendous abilities as a trial lawyer."


The past year has brought a series of high-powered cases for the Murphy firm and Ms. Gutierrez, who represented former Baltimore City Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean; John J. Merzbacher Jr. and Laurie S. Cook, teachers accused in separate cases of molesting students; and a 10-year-old Northwest Baltimore boy charged in the shotgun slaying of his best friend. Ms. Gutierrez defended Mr. Murphy, a former judge and one-time mayoral candidate, against wife-beating charges a year ago.

The two lawyers have worked together off and on for almost 20 years, after Ms. Gutierrez began clerking for Mr. Murphy in the 1970s. She became a partner in the firm several years ago.

Gary S. Bernstein, a former partner of Mr. Murphy and Ms. Gutierrez who now practices on his own, sympathized about the crush of work at the firm, which he said was the reason he left. "The intensity of it is immense," he said.

Mr. Murphy said he planned to begin searching for someone to join his firm soon. He said the two had not sorted out how they will divide clients. But Mr. Murphy hopes to refer co-defendants of some clients to Ms. Gutierrez and work with her that way.

"You can anticipate we will be an additional annoyance to the government because of that," he said.