Supreme Court orders ‘kick ass’ judge removed from bench

Florida Supreme Court

A judge who was captured on video berating and threatening to fight an assistant public defender was ordered removed from the bench Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.

Brevard County Judge John C. Murphy got into an argument last year with now-former assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock over whether a defendant could have a speedy trial.

The judge at one point said, “If you want to fight, let’s go out back.” The two men left the courtroom and Murphy was accused of hitting the man. He denied striking Weinstock.

The justices rejected a judicial review commission’s recommendation that Murphy only be suspended for four months and fined $50,000, saying the judge’s actions eroded public faith in the courts.

The court ruled in a 6-0 decision, with Justice James E.C. Perry recused; Perry earlier was a trial judge in the same 18th Judicial Circuit where Murphy sits.

“The egregious conduct demonstrates his present unfitness to remain in office,” the court said. “Judge Murphy’s grievous misconduct became a national spectacle and an embarrassment to Florida’s judicial system.”

One of Murphy’s attorneys, Larry Turner, said he wouldn’t comment until he had read the entire 23-page decision.

In video and audio recorded inside the courtroom, Murphy is heard expressing frustration at Weinstock after he announced his intention not to waive the speedy trial right of his client.

“You know, if I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now,” Murphy said at one point. “Stop (expletive) me off. Just sit down.”

After Weinstock responded that he had the right to be there and was representing his client, Murphy again snapped back at him: “I said sit down. If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll beat your (expletive).”

The two men could then be seen leaving the courtroom and entering a hallway. Moments later, Murphy is heard remarking, “All right you, you want to (expletive) with me?”

Murphy was on the bench for nine years. The Army veteran had served in Afghanistan and established Brevard County’s Veterans Treatment Court, which was geared toward veterans arrested on misdemeanors or traffic offenses who may need treatment for behavior problems, said Chief Judge John Galluzzo, said in a statement.

“As a county court judge he worked tirelessly and served our courts with distinction before and after that unfortunate day,” Galluzzo said.

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

But investigators had pointed out 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, contended in a court filing that Murphy “never consciously intended to deprive defendants of their rights.”

Moreover, those same investigators painted Weinstock as “rude, disrespectful, incompetent and a highly unlikeable lawyer.”

“Several witnesses testified that Mr. Weinstock’s reputation for truthfulness and veracity in the community was very negative,” according to an earlier 22-page report.

Though Murphy will no longer be a judge, he can remain a lawyer and member of The Florida Bar. Disbarment of an attorney is a separate process.

Florida Politics capital correspondent Jim Rosica contributed to this post. 

Associated Press


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