Below is an update from our original post: Florida Judge Loses Control + Takes Leave of Absence
Florida Judge John C. Murphy received an unusual order from the Supreme Court of Florida. He was immediately suspended and faces an “order to show cause” why he should not be removed from office. All because the judge lost his cool in court, gave a public defender a tongue lashing, invited the public defender to the hallway stating “I’ll just beat your ass,” and then engaged in a scuffle with the public defender right outside the courtroom.
The judge’s statements in the courtroom were video-taped and it clearly shows the public defender heading to the hallway. While there is no video of the hallway interaction between the judge and the public defender, an altercation can clearly be heard on the video from the courtroom.
There was divergent testimony at the judge’s disciplinary hearing. The public defender testified that once in the hallway the judge grabbed him with one hand and repeatedly punched him with the other. The judge admitted grabbing the public defender but denied ever punching him. A woman in the courtroom testified that as the door to the hallway was closing, she saw the judge grab the public defender and start to swing at him.
The Florida Supreme Court’s order is all the more unusual because of the recommended sanction from the Judicial Qualification Commission which presided over the disciplinary hearing. The Commission recommended a four month suspension without pay and a $50,000 fine. As of late, the Court has been imposing stiffer sanctions in judicial discipline cases. The judge had taken a month-long leave of absence from the bench, sought mental health counseling, issued a public apology and asked the Supreme Court to uphold the commission’s recommendations.