Fla. Judge Who Smacked Public Defender Given Leave of Absence

Florida Judge John Murphy got angry when a public defender refused to waive speedy trial. He told the defender if he wanted to fight, to go into the hallway and he'd beat his as*. The public defender didn't think he meant he'd physically beat him, and went into the hallway to continue the verbal dispute. The judge smacked him. The camera doesn't catch the hallway brawl, but you can hear it.

Judge Murphy has been relieved of his duties and will undergo anger management. The public defender's office will file a bar complaint against the judge.

The public defender who got whooped has declined to press charges. [More...]

Here is the 11 minute version. After the judge comes back in the courtroom, he asks the defendant (now without counsel present) if he'll waive speedy trial. To his credit, the defendant says no, he wants this over as fast as possible. The judge makes some more comments. Then he calls the next defendant who is also represented by the public defender and proceeds to ask him questions about how he wants to proceed, even though his lawyer is not there.

It is truly mind-boggling that a judge would behave this way. Physically attacking a defendant's lawyer, and then proceeding to hear cases without the lawyer present?

The judge's leave of absence comes with pay. Last year, he applied for an appeals court position but was turned down. On his application he wrote:

"Judicial temperament includes patience, open-mindedness, courtesy, tact, firmness, understanding, compassion and humility. Patience was the toughest for me. I work very hard to ensure that I do not become impatient."

Judge Murphy is a retired Army colonel who served 30 years in the military.

The Chief Judge of the circuit has issued this statement:


As Chief Judge, I want to assure the public that yesterday’s incident involving a county court judge and an assistant public defender is not something that will ever be tolerated in the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit. This isolated event in no way reflects the typical manner that courtrooms in Brevard and Seminole Counties are managed by the hardworking and conscientious judges in this circuit. People come to court seeking justice and a peaceful resolution to their conflicts and they have the right to expect a much higher standard of behavior from our judges than was exhibited in court yesterday.

All of our judges, including Judge Murphy, fully understand this and to that end, and with the fullest cooperation from Judge Murphy, I have temporarily reassigned all of his pending cases to other judges. Moreover, Judge Murphy has agreed to seek anger management counseling and treatment during a temporary leave of absence.

As Chief Judge, I will continue to work with all of our judges to ensure that we meet our responsibilities to the public in a manner that is worthy of the trust and confidence placed in us. At this time, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further on the incident, the leave of absence, or any future reassignment of cases.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Yeah, (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 09:13:45 PM EST
    I think he needs to retire or be removed from the bench. This is ridiculous.

    Removed immediately (none / 0) (#2)
    by ZtoA on Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 09:47:47 PM EST
    Shocking behavior.

    He is entitled to notice and a hearing. (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 09:56:55 PM EST
    lol; maybe he'll be accorded (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 08:37:01 AM EST
    one of those "speedy trials."

    Were those lined up defendants (none / 0) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:17:08 AM EST
    Who were applauding their assaulting judge?

    He should be prosecuted for assault (none / 0) (#11)
    by MKS on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 08:12:53 AM EST
    He should be disbarred.

    He should never take the bench again.


    suspended with pay (none / 0) (#28)
    by ZtoA on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:11:58 PM EST
    He needs to be removed... (none / 0) (#6)
    by unitron on Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 11:12:42 PM EST
    ...to county lockup pending trial for assault.

    Oh, he's a retired Army Colonel (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Jun 03, 2014 at 11:06:48 PM EST
    Well, that doesn't say much for the Army does it?  Wall to wall counseling was once a reality and not just a joke.  Why were people clapping though?  Do they understand that he is supposed to uphold and represent our legal system, he isn't judging dog fights?

    True, that, but (none / 0) (#9)
    by scribe on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 06:46:17 AM EST
    wall-to-wall counseling was reserved for sergeants to do - officers were not supposed to do or know about when sergeants took bad soldiers out and straightened them out.

    No good reason for the PD to not press charges (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by scribe on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 06:44:34 AM EST
    and every reason he should.  The only way this clown is going to be off the bench is with a criminal conviction.  Period.  And he needs to be off the bench.  Once he gets back from anger management he'll continue screwing defendants, only he'll be a little more subtle and do it in ways that are less susceptible of reversal on appeal.

    Will the Judge waive (none / 0) (#10)
    by MKS on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 08:11:59 AM EST
    his right to Speedy Trial on assault charges?

    He committed a crime.

    No longer a question of whether he should be a judge, or a lawyer, but whether he should go to jail.  


    There are good reasons... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 10:57:29 AM EST
    not to press charges...I've been assaulted and not pressed charges, just to spare myself dealing with the police and the criminal justice system at large.  Why pile misery upon misery on yourself?

    True, pressing charges would probably serve the greater good, but there are good selfish reasons not to press charges, especially for minor assaults.  

    Besides, if charges were pressed every time somebody got slapped, the courts would be so clogged nobody could get a speedy trial.


    Seriously (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by jbindc on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 08:15:08 AM EST
    Has no defense counsel ever refused to waive speedy trial?  What set him off?

    Totally unacceptable behavior and I hope the PD presses charges.

    When the judge returned to the courtroom... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Dadler on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 10:01:03 AM EST
    ...he received applause from the peanut gallery. THAT, it would seem obvious, is the real problem. Too many supposedly free Americans siding with a little tyrant. That PD needs to press charges NOW. We should start a petition imploring him to do so, and explaining why.

    I think that's right (none / 0) (#16)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 10:15:53 AM EST
    Possibly only PDs really understand what a diaphanous membrane of civil law separates us from Salem style dunkings and burnings.

    Not really (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 10:38:26 AM EST
    Not diaphanous (none / 0) (#19)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 10:40:20 AM EST
    Or not only PDs?  It's to early for cryptic.

    PDs (none / 0) (#21)
    by jbindc on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 11:02:22 AM EST
    Are not the only one concerned with justice, much as the skew of this blog and commenters seem to imply.

    Not speaking for everybody (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by sj on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 11:15:43 AM EST
    Only myself, but justice is exactly my focus. As opposed to law 'n' order.

    Just saying.


    "Justice" (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by jbindc on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 11:40:21 AM EST
    Doesn't mean the police and prosecutors are always bad and defense attorneys are always in pursuit of good and righteousness - not even close. It doesn't mean that all (or most) defendants are wrongly charged. Only around here does it mean that.  That's ok - it's a criminal defense site, so of course, opinions will be skewed, and not necessarily in line with what really goes on. (Just ask yourself this:  When was the last time anyone around here discussed things like this, this, this, this.  No need to answer - I know the response:  they were trying to arrest or subdue people for things some think should be legal, so they probably "asked for it.")

    "Justice" means "law n' order" should go hand in hand (and in many, or most, cases) they do. They are not opposite of each other.

    Unless of course, you choose to see it that way.


    "Justice" is one of those words that (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Anne on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:13:51 PM EST
    doesn't always mean what people think it does, or want it to.  If I am a victim of crime, "justice" means, in simple terms, that I want the person who committed that crime to be held accountable, and to my satisfaction.  If I am accused of a crime, it means I want the rights guaranteed to me to be upheld and observed.

    If the process plays out fully in accordance with the law and the constitution, is it still "justice" if a guilty verdict is reached but I don't think the punishment fits the crime?  Is it still "justice" if the accused didn't commit the crime but is found guilty?

    Just as I don't believe everyone who wears a police uniform or sits at the prosecutor's table wants to arrest innocent people and send innocent people to prison, I don't think defense lawyers all want guilty people to get away with the crimes they commit.  I think the good ones with respect to the former really do want the right person to be held accountable, and I think the good ones on the defense side are working as much for the constitution and the law as they are for the clients they represent.  

    It's about the process - and there are probably few occasions when victims and the accused both truly feel "justice" - in the vernacular meaning of that word - has been done.  


    I am only commenting on THIS incident (5.00 / 2) (#36)
    by Dadler on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 02:18:46 PM EST
    Which, IMO, warrants criminal charges, not simply professional sanctions, against this judge.

    Look, I had season tickets to USF b-ball until last season. You know why? Cuz I watched USF's head coach put his hands on a player during a timeout, shake him around at mid-court, and humiliate him by mocking his defensive stance. Then I had to argue with USF alumni fans who were defending the coach to the hilt. I responded by asking them if it would be okay for the chair of the chemistry department to smack the star chemistry student because they weren't happy with that student's effort for the last hour? They said it was different, that sports were different, and I told them they were full of shit.

    This is the same to me. And, to be honest, represents the experiences I have had in the three times I have been in a courtroom. Sorry, but every time I have had an interaction with a judge (and we are only talking small claims or traffic court here), just like the many times I have interacted with police, I have never gotten anything (except for one single time) but disrespect and condescension. And that's just the truth.

    I spent years living in the inner-city. What can I say?

    Peace, my friend.


    d'accord (none / 0) (#31)
    by sj on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:16:29 PM EST

    "Justice" (none / 0) (#25)
    by jbindc on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 10:40:21 AM MDT

    Doesn't mean the police and prosecutors are always bad and defense attorneys are always in pursuit of good and righteousness - not even close.

    Law 'n' order types, however, most often tend to support "The Law" as a matter of reflex. And frankly, I don't know anyone here who takes the position that "defense attorneys are always in support of good and righteousness." For someone who is so frequently mischaracterized, I am surprised you still so blatantly mischaracterize others.

    You can post link after link after link of the type that you did, and for every one of those I could post link after link of police, and correctional officers and governmental agencies abusing the authority they have been granted.

    But in the end, what does that prove? Nothing but that human beings are human beings everywhere, and that two people are posting links about bad actors. That's it. Okay, it also proves that it is usually bad actions that get reported and not righteous ones.

    In this instance, even you take the position that charges should be pressed against an officer of the court.

    I believe more in Blind Justice than law 'n' order because I believe that all citizens should be subject to the same laws and the same consequences and the same rewards. Regardless of which side of the badge they are standing. And, moreover, I believe that said laws should actually be just.

    Police officers should not automatically be given deference because of their job. Maybe once upon a time that could be justified, kind of; in the past when they walked a beat and were part of a community. With everything that implies.

    But not now. Not with the militarization of police forces around the country. Now each circumstance should be looked at independently, without a reflexive viewpoint in favor of the person behind the badge.


    Why not apply your last paragraph (none / 0) (#32)
    by oculus on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:30:48 PM EST
    to everyone?  [Rhetorical question.]

    You can do that if want to (none / 0) (#33)
    by sj on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 01:14:11 PM EST
    I would be interested to see how you would do so [not rhetorical]. I think the 5th paragraph (holy cr@p, seven paragraphs?) does that already, but that's just my opinion.

    what POSSIBLE justification... (none / 0) (#34)
    by Dadler on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 02:08:44 PM EST
    ...did that judge have to physically assault that judge. He threw the first punch, from all reports, and I only wish the PD had been a bigger guy. First off, if he were, the judge never would've lipped off, and second, if he had lipped off AND taken the first punch, he'd have been justifiable KO'd. If only Alan Page had been that PD.

    Count me as perplexed by anything but complete enmity toward this judge.

    Phuck him, charge him, convict him, disbar him, let him rot in the misery of his own making until he, if he ever does, realizes what an asshat bully he is.

    To repeat...PHUCK HIM.

    Sorry if this offends folks who might otherwise like my POV. Oh well...

    Peace to all.


    physically assault that PD (none / 0) (#35)
    by Dadler on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 02:09:37 PM EST
    Good heavens, could you miss a worse typo.


    (Which some of my rhetorical opponents might agree with. ;0])


    I hope the prosecutor's office (none / 0) (#37)
    by oculus on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 02:29:32 PM EST
    files criminal charges.  And the judicial counsel removes him from the bench. And the state bar yanks his license forever.

    Kudos for "diaphanous membrane". (none / 0) (#26)
    by oculus on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 11:55:19 AM EST
    might makes right (none / 0) (#27)
    by ZtoA on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:11:30 PM EST
    apparently appreciated by more than the judge.

    Not the usual type of violence... (none / 0) (#15)
    by kdog on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 10:02:53 AM EST
    perpetrated against the defense table by the courts...but perhaps this is more honest! ;)

    Question (none / 0) (#17)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 10:33:07 AM EST
    Are others seeing the image that aparrently tops this post?  I see a space for an image but no image.  iPad thing?

    It's an embedded video, which may be (none / 0) (#23)
    by Anne on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 11:30:26 AM EST
    why you aren't seeing it.

    Says "WFTV.com" on it so you may be able to get it there.


    Thanks (none / 0) (#24)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 11:33:33 AM EST
    Suspected something like that

    Is Murphy a luddite (none / 0) (#30)
    by ZtoA on Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 12:14:08 PM EST
    he must know the court room is being videoed since he stepped out of it for his physical bullying and alleged assault. Does he know that videos include audio?