Judge who threatened to fight lawyer removed from bench
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A judge who was captured on video berating and threatening to fight an assistant public defender was ordered removed from the bench Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.
Brevard County Judge John Murphy got into an argument last year with now-former assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock over whether a defendant could have a speedy trial. The judge at one point said, "If you want to fight, let's go out back." The two men left the courtroom and Murphy was accused of hitting the man. He denied striking Weinstock.
The justices said Thursday that Murphy's actions eroded public faith in the courts. They also rejected a judicial review commission's recommendation that Murphy only be suspended for four months and fined $50,000.
"The egregious conduct demonstrates his present unfitness to remain in office," the justices said. "Judge Murphy's grievous misconduct became a national spectacle and an embarrassment to Florida's judicial system."
Murphy could file a motion for a rehearing on the court's decision, but no decision has been made on whether he will do that, said Ronald Kozlowski, one of his attorneys.
"He's disappointed ... He's devoted most of his life to the justice system and serving his country," Kozlowski said. "Frankly, he was hopeful until the court's ruling today that he would continue as a judge."
In video and audio recorded inside the courtroom, Murphy is heard expressing frustration at Weinstock after he announced his intention not to waive the speedy trial right of his client.
"You know, if I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now," Murphy said at one point. "Stop pissing me off. Just sit down."
After Weinstock responded that he had the right to be there and was representing his client, Murphy again snapped back at him, saying "I said sit down. If you want to fight, let's go out back and I'll beat your (expletive)."
The two men could then be seen leaving the courtroom and entering a hallway. Moments later, Murphy is heard remarking, "All right you, you want to (expletive) with me?"
Murphy was on the bench for nine years. The Army veteran had served in Afghanistan and established Brevard County's Veterans Treatment Court, which was geared toward veterans arrested on misdemeanors or traffic offenses who may need treatment for behavior problems, said Chief Judge John Galluzzo, said in a statement.
"As a county court judge he worked tirelessly and served our courts with distinction before and after that unfortunate day," Galluzzo said.