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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Florida Judge Removed from Bench After Fracas

(CN) - A judge captured on a courtroom video threatening to beat up an assistant public defender has been removed from the bench by the Florida Supreme Court.

In its ruling Thursday, Florida's highest court said Brevard County Circuit Judge John Murphy had eroded the public's faith in the court when he threatened then-assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock over whether a defendant would waive his right to a speedy trial.

In the video, Murphy responded angrily when Weinstock said his client would not waive his right to a speedy trial.

"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?"

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 breath.

"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.

A Florida judicial review panel, the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commissions, later said that while there was no evidence Murphy actually struck Weinstock, he nevertheless violated a number of judicial canons, including those requiring he be dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses and lawyers.

The six-member panel recommended Murphy be suspended for four months, publicly reprimanded, and fined $50,000.

But the state Supreme Court rejected those recommendations, saying that Murphy's actions, "became a national spectacle and an embarrassment to Florida's judicial system."

In a statement, Brevard County Chief Judge John Galluzzo assured citizens of the county "that the vacancy caused by Judge Murphy's removal from office will not result in any significant disruption of court services."

He said almost all of Murphy's caseload had already been divided among several other judge.

"I would like to wish Judge Murphy success in his future endeavors," Galluzzo continued. "As a county court judge he worked tirelessly and served our courts with distinction before and after that unfortunate day. We will remember him for the countless positive contributions he made during his years on the bench and he will be mixed."

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