618-435-8123 | 602 Public Square Benton, IL 62812


Murphy Hart

Partner Murphy C. Hart, a native of Benton, has practiced law with the Hart family firm since his graduation from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1983.

In fact, Murphy represents the fourth generation of Harts to practice at Hart Cantrell — the oldest continuous family law firm in the state of Illinois. He has worked alongside his father, Richard O. Hart, and his Uncle Bill during his tenure at Hart Cantrell.

Murphy has more than 30 years of experience as an attorney at the firm, which is located on the southwest side of the Benton Public Square.

He is a member of the Illinois and Franklin County Bar Associations. He is admitted to practice law before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, all Illinois courts and is an inactive member of the Missouri Bar Association.

Murphy also is a Director of the Illinois State Bar Mutual Insurance Company as well as a member of the Attorneys Registration and Disciplinary Committee of the Illinois Bar Association, longtime Chair of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Merit Board, and longtime member of the Board of Directors of the State Bank of Whittington.

He writes title insurance for Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund, making Hart Cantrell a top producer for Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund for many years.

Murphy has been happily married to his wife Jody since 1985. Jody recently retired after serving many years as a health and fitness instructor at John A. Logan College.

The Harts have two sons, Ryan and Caleb. Ryan Hart is an attorney who is pursuing his Master of Business Administration at the University of Notre Dame. Caleb Hart is a professional online video gamer who also has earned three certificates in Culinary Arts.

Murphy and Jody Hart are active in their community and enjoy traveling with their boys. Additionally, Murphy is an avid golfer, and Jody enjoys swimming and playing tennis.

Jonathan Cantrell

Jonathan Cantrell’s unique background and education have provided him with a solid foundation to serve people of Southern Illinois. Jonathan is the proud son of two U.S. Air Force veterans, both of whom served during the Vietnam War era. His father, Ronald, was awarded two Bronze Star medals for his service in Vietnam, and ultimately retired from the Air Force as a Colonel. Jonathan’s mother, Deborah, certainly deserved her share of medals for her success in raising Jonathan and his four siblings.

Throughout Ronald’s Air Force career, the family moved from state-to-state and country-to-country. Jonathan spent almost ten years of his childhood in Belgium, attending school in French, through his seventh grade year (right alongside his siblings). Jonathan’s parents chose to return to Ronald’s Southern Illinois roots, moving to Galatia in 1993. Jonathan was involved in many extracurricular activities at Galatia High School, where he graduated as Valedictorian of his class.

Jonathan attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland after high school. While at the Naval Academy, he benefited from an outstanding education along with exposure to some of America’s greatest leaders. Jonathan graduated with merit, earning a Bachelor of Science in Political Science. He later received an Honorable Discharge as a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves.

Jonathan returned to Southern Illinois to attend SIU School of Law starting in 2005, and he graduated cum laude in 2008. He has been practicing law in Southern Illinois continuously since 2008. In 2017, he joined Murphy Hart to form the law firm of Hart Cantrell. Jonathan is honored and humbled to have been invited to join the Hart family and be a part of a legacy that reaches back to 1887, when Murphy Hart’s great-grandfather first founded the law firm.

Best of all, Jonathan was lucky enough to meet his wife, Linda, while practicing law in Southern Illinois and together they are proudly raising a daughter and son. Jonathan hopes to continue serving the people of Southern Illinois for the remainder of his career. Of the many places he has traveled, he finds the people of Southern Illinois to be genuine, caring, and honest, making this a great place for his family to call home.

Jennifer L. Thompson

Jennifer L. Thompson, who joined Hart Cantrell in 2020, earned her law degree from Southern Illinois University School of Law in December of 2011 and obtained her law license in May of 2012. Prior to law school, she served as a paralegal for more than 13 years. Jennifer worked for the firm of Michelle M. Schafer, Attorney at Law, LLC, from 2012 until 2020 as a family law trial attorney. Jennifer has proven that she serves each client with integrity, compassion, and respect. Jennifer is also a trained family law mediator, which gives her the opportunity to help families in transition have the most control in establishing the allocation of parental responsibilities for decision-making and parenting time. Jennifer is a certified mediator in the First and Second Judicial Circuits of Illinois.

Jennifer served as the President of the Williamson County Bar Association for six (6) years, serves as Treasurer for the Dispute Resolution Institute, Inc., provides pro bono representation through Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, is a member of the Illinois Bar Association where she serves on the Assembly and is a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section Council and the Assembly.

Jennifer moved to Herrin, Illinois in the summer of 1991 and graduated Herrin High School in 1994. Despite having lived in New York and Texas, Jennifer chose to remain in Southern Illinois to further her education and raise her family. Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, especially her children, grandchildren, and niece. Jennifer appreciates the beauty of the area and the outdoor activities that are available at every turn. Jennifer likes to travel to experience different climates, cultures, and food. She enjoys cooking for her family and friends having picked up many coveted recipes throughout the years.

Jennifer brings her excitement and experience to the firm of Hart Cantrell and looks forward to serving the Franklin County community with the same integrity, compassion, and respect for which she is known.


"I have known Murphy for a number of years. We have utilized him in our business, Jerkins Creative Consulting, and in most of our private work. My wife and I have discussed with him many of the things we experienced in life and experienced with our kids, and we did our trust and our will through his law firm. We have sold and bought property over the years, and Murphy has always done all of our documentation. He is very professional, very communicative and detail-oriented. My wife and I have counted on Murphy and his staff to do a good job for us."
- Floyd Jerkins, Jerkins Creative Consulting


"Murphy Hart is an attorney who makes you feel confident: He has law experience to go along with his knowledge of real estate — and there is a lot to know because laws are always changing. Buying a house is a serious thing, and most people know nothing about it. It's good to know that Hart Cantrell is not only a title company: It's a title company and a law firm. Murphy is so accommodating and has a nice way with people, plus he comes from a long line of attorneys. I really appreciate his flexibility and his ability to talk to people." - Lynette Ing, Real Estate Agent


“After a suffering a serious injury at work, I hired Jonathan and he did a great job making sure my benefits were paid throughout a lengthy recovery process. Although my health never recovered enough to go back to my old job, Jonathan was able to obtain a substantial settlement to help my family be set up for the future. I would recommend Jonathan to anyone who has been injured at work.” - Brett M.


“After getting nowhere with the insurance company, I hired Jonathan to help me with my worker’s compensation claim. I was impressed at how fast he was able to get my case settled, and I am very happy with my settlement. If I ever need an attorney in the future, Jonathan will be the first person I call.” - Adam R.


“My son suffered a serious injury, and I had no idea what our rights were and whether I could get my son any help. To my pleasant surprise, Jonathan was able to help us secure a significant settlement that has my son’s future looking much brighter.” - Jonathan H.


“My family went through a very difficult and lengthy lawsuit involving disputed inheritances, finances, and real estate rights. Jonathan took our case to the appellate court, where he was successful, and he helped us resolve the entire case after years of legal battles. Jonathan did an outstanding job on behalf of my family, and I would recommend him to anyone looking for a good attorney.” - Joyce W.


“I had to go onto Social Security Disability as a result of my work injury. Jonathan was able to get me a good settlement for my worker’s compensation claim while making sure my social security benefits were not affected. I am very happy that I made the right choice by hiring Jonathan.” - Michael S.


“My wife and I hired Hart Cantrell to revise our Wills and update our estate planning. The attorney did a great job explaining our options, and we ultimately chose them to prepare our new Wills and Power of Attorney documents. We are very happy we chose Hart Cantrell.” – Ronald B.


Over the years, Hart has acquired a number of repeat clients and loyal realtors and lenders, such as longtime realtor Christy Powers.

“I have used Murphy for title examination and closings ever since I first started buying and selling homes,” says Powers, an agent at Property With TLC in nearby Herrin. “Murphy is very efficient, quick and trustworthy, and that’s the way we like it! – Christy Powers


Peter J. Birnbaum, president of Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund, has known Hart for most of his career. “Murphy’s dad Richard was one of the founders of my company, and Murphy serves on the board of directors,” says Birnbaum. “Murphy is one of the most valued attorney agents of our title insurance underwriter. Over the years, we have worked together on many transactions.
“Murphy is one of the most gifted real estate attorneys I have ever known,” Birnbaum says.– Peter J. Brinbaum

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