Florida Judge Suspended After Fisticuffs With Public Defender

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 08, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Florida Supreme Court suspended Brevard County Judge John C. Murphy on Monday, sending a strong message to the state's magistrates: stop trying to beat up public defenders.

Last June, Judge Murphy got into a bit of a spat with public defender Andrew Weinstock, telling him "You know, if I had a rock I'd throw it at you right now," inviting him outside to fight, and, well, actually fighting with the attorney. Of course, the incident was caught on film.

But Who Won the Fight?

The fight seems to have been sparked when Judge Murphy took offense that Weinstein wanted to -- well, just do his job. Demanding that Weinstein stop representing his client during a proceeding, Judge Murphy insisted: "Stop pissing me off. I'll take care of this. I don't need your help. Sit down."

When Weinstein refused, insisting that he had "a right to be here," the good judge challenged him to a fight. "If you want to fight," Judge Murphy said on camera, "let's go out back and I'll just beat your ass." Such judicial eloquence is rarely heard these days.

In fact, beating the public defender's ass is exactly what Judge Murphy attempted to do. The judge pinned Weinstock to a wall in the (sadly, off-camera) hallway and, according to Weinstock, punched him three times in the face. Weinstock left, as one does after being punched by a judge. Murphy returned to the bench, disheveled and panting, processing eight of Weinstock's clients without their lawyer being present.

An Interesting Defense Strategy

The Florida Supreme Court took the rare move of suspending Judge Murphy without pay before the investigation against him concludes, describing the incident as "aggressive and appalling." It's the first time "in recent history" that a judge has been removed from the bench before an inquiry concluded, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Judge Murphy has until October 26th to show why he should not be permanently kicked off the bench.

Murphy's defense seems to have a novel strategy to help him out of his bind. It's not the fact that he threatened to beat a lawyer's ass that matters, nor that Murphy physically fought an attorney within view of his court room, nor the fact that he processed defendants after "removing" their lawyer. Nope, what matters is whether he actually threw a punch, his lawyers claim in an early court filing. Murphy "understands that his behavior, regardless of punches, was egregious, but he believes that this Court and the public would view proof of a punch in a courtroom disagreement as unredeemable."

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