The Business Litigation Blog

Judge Punches Public Defender, Then Returns to the Bench

Judges are known for being calm and controlled, not to mention extremely professional.  However, a Florida judge recently showed that there is an exception to every rule.  

Judge Asks A Public Defender Into the Hall, Then Hits Him

A Brevard County Florida judge, John Murphy, allegedly asked public defender Andrew Weinstock to step out in the hallway and then apparently punched the attorney repeatedly until the judge was restrained by sheriff’s deputies.  No one was charged in the incident.   The incident took place outside the view of courthouse video cameras, but it was captured by the camera’s audio recorder.  There were apparently several loud thuds that occurred one right after the next.  

Waive a Speedy Trial...or else?

The altercation apparently originated from a disagreement between the judge and the attorney over a relatively routine court motion.  The judge had requested that the public defender waive the defendant’s right to a speedy trial.  When the public defender repeatedly refused to do so, the judge became furious allegedly saying “if you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll beat your ass .”   Shortly after saying that, the judge and the public defender left the courtroom and went into the hall where the fight occurred.

The public defender was defending his client’s right to a speedy trial.  The right to a speedy trial is a constitutional right given to all criminal defendants.  The purpose of this constitutional protection is to prevent the government from imprisoning defendants indefinitely while they wait for trial or to hold the threat of a criminal trial over their head to frighten them.  

Routinely, due to the high volume of cases in the modern-day criminal justice system and the amount of time that it often takes to properly prepare for a modern trial, many defendants willingly waive their right to a speedy trial.  The judge here apparently asked the public defender to waive his client’s right to a speedy trial, but the public defender did not wish to do so.  It was only after the public defender repeatedly refused to waive the right when the judge became incensed.

Judge on Leave

In a written statement, the Chief Judge for the county said that Judge Murphy was on paid leave for the time-being and had agreed to take anger management classes and receive treatment.   The Florida Bar is looking into the incident according to a Bar spokesman.  While all lawyers are held to a high standard of professionalism, the American Bar Association and many state bars require judges and prosecutors to meet a higher standard than other attorneys. 

Mr. Weinstock, the public defender, has been reassigned to a new court.          

If you have questions about legal malpractice or attorney ethics, call or email the attorneys at the Patterson Law Firm for guidance. To learn more about the services we offer, visit pattersonlawfirm.com or call 312.223.1699.

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