The Brevard County judge who got into a hallway scuffle with a lawyer following a courtroom argument in which he threatened to beat the man is now facing the prospect of removal from office.
The state agency that polices judges, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, filed formal charges Wednesday against Brevard County Judge John C. Murphy.
They were made public today.
They accuse him of violating seven of the state's rules on how a judge should behave. He broke the law, according to the charges; failed to treat Assistant Public Defender Andrew Weinstock with dignity, something to which everyone who comes to court is entitled; and failed to act in a way that promotes confidence in the judiciary.
Their argument was captured June 2 on a courtroom video monitoring system in Viera, but the fight then moved into the hallway, where the two men could be heard struggling and cursing.
A Brevard County deputy reported seeing the men grabbing each other.
Murphy was upset because Weinstock would not waive a client's right to a speedy trial.
"You know if I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now," the JQC quoted Murphy as saying. "Stop pissing me off. Just sit down. I'll take care of this. I don't need your help. Sit down."
To that, Weinstock said, "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," the judge then 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, the JQC wrote, there was a fight, and Weinstock asked that Murphy be arrested.
A short time later Murphy returned to the courtroom, but Weinstock did not. The judge then proceeded to handle the cases of seven of Weinstock's clients, now without an attorney there to speak on their behalf.
In one of those cases, Murphy took a plea and imposed sentence, the JQC noted. In another, he listened to the testimony of a victim and changed the conditions a defendant's bond. In three others, he waived defendants' rights to a speedy trial.
Murphy should never have moved forward with those cases, the JQC alleged. When he did, he violated another judicial canon – No. 5, a prohibition on acting as an attorney.
Murphy took a month off, got anger management counseling then returned to work, issuing a public apology.
"I love my job and have refocused myself on doing all I can to make myself a better person and a better judge," he said.
He was reassigned to a different courthouse – in Titusville – and was shifted from handling criminal cases to civil ones.
Murphy has 20 days to respond to the JQC charges.
He was not available for comment.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-650-6394