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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 Florida judge, John Murphy, allegedly asked public defender, Andrew Weinstock, to step out in the hallway. Then, he apparently punched the attorney repeatedly until sheriff deputies restrained him.

No one was charged in the incident. The incident took place outside the view of courthouse video cameras, but the camera’s audio recorder captured it. There were apparently several loud thuds that occurred one 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 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. He allegedly said, “if you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll beat your ass.”   Shortly after saying that, 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.  This prevents the government from imprisoning defendants while they wait for trial. Routinely, many defendants willingly waive their right to a speedy trial. 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. Additionally, he 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, bar associations require judges and prosecutors to meet a higher standard than other attorneys.

Mr. Weinstock, the public defender, was 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.

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