(CN) – A Florida judicial review panel recommended a four-month suspension without pay for a Brevard County judge who was videotaped last year threatening to assault a public defender.
By a unanimous vote, the six-member Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission on Wednesday held that Judge John C. Murphy violated a number of judicial canons, including those requiring he be dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses and lawyers.
The panel also recommended that Murphy be publicly reprimanded and fined $50,000.
The Florida Supreme Court will now decide on Murphy’s final punishment. It often adopts the qualification commission’s recommendations.
The judge, who is reportedly enrolled in an anger management program, was captured on video and audio tape last June berating former assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock.
Weinstock had just told the judge he would not waive his client’s right to a speedy trial.
Murphy responded in anger.
“You know, if I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now,” Murphy said. “Stop pissing me off. Just sit down. I’ll take care of this. I don’t need your help. Sit down.”
Weinstock responded, “You know what? I’m the public defender. I have a right to be here, and I have a right to stand and represent my clients.”
“I said sit down,” Judge Murphy said. “If you want to fight, let’s go out back, and I’ll just beat your ass.”
The two men then went into the hallway, where a loud argument ensued, and Weinstock asked that the judge be arrested.
Murphy can be heard shouting, “Do you want to fight with me? Do you?”
The qualifications commission said it could find “no clear and convincing evidence that Judge Murphy ever actually struck Weinstock.”
Afterwards, Murphy returned to the courtroom; Weinstock did not.
Courtroom witnesses and some defendants laughed and applauded upon his return.
Murphy can be heard catching his breathe.
“Well, I’m an old man,” he said.
Nevertheless, Murphy proceeded to deal with the cases of seven of Weinstock’s clients.
In one case the judge accepted a plea and imposed a sentence, in another he changed the condition of a defendant’s bond. In three other cases he waived the defendants’ rights to a speedy trial.
The qualifications commission said Murphy should have ever moved forward with those cases, and that in doing so, he violated the judicial canon’s prohibition on acting as an attorney.
The judge later issued a public apology.
“I love my hob and have refocused myself on doing all I can to make myself a better person and a better judge,” Murphy said.
He has since been reassigned to another court, and moved from the criminal court to hearing civil cases.
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