If the judges over in Broward County are having trouble staying sober, it appears that anger management may be the challenge for judges in Brevard County, Florida. Judge John Murphy has been accused of saying that he wanted to throw a rock at a public defender and then saying that he wanted to meet him behind the courtroom to “beat your ass.” According to public defender Andrew Weinstock, he proceeded to try to do precisely that. However, no criminal charges have been brought against Murphy and there is no reported judicial discipline proceeding.
Murphy was allegedly upset that Weinstock would not get his client to waive his right to a speedy trial. In the video below, he tells Weinstein “You know, if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now.” He then told Weinstock to “Stop pissing me off. Just sit down.” Then it allegedly went from insulting to gladiatorial with Murphy quoted as saying “If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass.”
The two then left the courtroom. While the two could not be seen, the courtroom camera captured sounds of a scuffle and loud thuds — even producing applause from the courtroom when the fighting seemed to end. It would seem like an April Fool’s joke but it wasn’t April and it was no joke.
In the video, Murphy clearly loses his sense of control and decorum. Weinstein seems to agree when the judge asks him to step outside and immediately follows Murphy. However, Weinstock’s supervisor Blaise Trettis, public defender of the 18th Judicial Court said that Weinstock thought that they were going to just talk things through but that “immediately upon entering the hallway he was grabbed by the collar and began to be struck. There was no discussion, no talk, not even time for anything. Just as soon as they’re in the hallway, the attorney was grabbed.” Two deputies reportedly broke up the fight and Weinstein was reassigned and Murphy went back and retook the bench to continue with cases.
The question is, if Trettis and Weinstein maintain that this was an unprovoked attack, why was there no criminal charge. Fights in courthouses are routinely treated more severely than other assaults. Moreover, if Murphy did make these statements, it is clearly a violation of judicial ethics. What makes that violation even more egregious is that it was allegedly over pressure to get someone to waive a constitutional right.
I assume that judicial discipline will come but I am curious as to how the deputies concluded that no criminal act occurred.
John C. Murphy was elected in September of 2006 and re-elected in 2012 for a term that expires on January 8, 2019. He is a graduate from the University of Dayton School of Law. Before taking the bench, he worked at his father’s law firm, Betten, Murphy & Weiss, Attorneys, P.A.