Lawyers argue for keeping accused “kick ass” judge on bench


The judge accused of causing the Florida judicial system “to become a national embarrassment” should not be removed from office, his lawyers argued in a court filing released Tuesday.

Last June, Brevard County Judge John C. Murphy was caught on courtroom video blowing up at then-Assistant Public Defender Andrew Weinstock, telling the lawyer he wanted to throw a rock at him.

Murphy also told Weinstock, “If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll beat your ass.” The altercation was reported by state and national news media, and Weinstock resigned from the Public Defender’s Office after the incident.

Weinstock later said Murphy “kick(ed) his ass” by clocking him twice in the face in a hallway behind the courtroom. Murphy denied striking him, and investigators determined “there was no clear and convincing evidence that Judge Murphy ever actually struck Weinstock.”

Nonetheless, the Florida Supreme Court suspended Murphy without pay in October and ordered him to show why he shouldn’t be permanently removed from the bench.

Murphy’s legal team from the Gainesville-based law firm of Turner O’Connor Kozlowski said Murphy “received emails, phone calls, text messages, and more than 150 letters of support, (including from) three former chief judges of the 18th Judicial Circuit” in Brevard and Seminole counties.

“Judge Murphy’s transgression is isolated within a stellar judicial and legal career,” the lawyers told the court. “Murphy took every opportunity to mitigate his behavior. He has done everything a judge can to ameliorate a regrettable moment such as this.”

Murphy, a veteran, underwent anger management counseling, learning that his “military experiences” were a contributing factor to his outburst, suggesting a post-traumatic stress disorder.

But a report of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), the state body charged with investigating charges of judicial misconduct, pointed that the judge handled seven cases after Weinstock fled the courtroom, meaning several defendants didn’t have a lawyer present with them in the courtroom.

Murphy’s lawyers, however, countered that Murphy “never consciously intended to deprive defendants of their rights.”

“Judge Murphy’s single episode of misconduct was a snapshot within a stellar career,” the filing said. “Everyone who knows or has practiced in front of Judge Murphy knows that this incident was isolated and completely out of character.”

There is no timeline on when the court will make a final decision on Murphy’s case.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].


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