State's high court removes judge from bench for misconduct
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a circuit judge removed from the bench for misconduct, the most severe punishment the court can impose on a wayward jurist. The decision marks the latest in a series of cases in which Chief Judge Jorge Labarga and his colleagues said the recommended punishment by the Judicial Qualifications Commission was too lenient.
In a strongly-worded opinion, justices said Brevard Circuit Judge John Murphy's behavior was so appalling that it became a "national spectacle" and an "embarrassment" to Florida.
An excerpt from the ruling: "On June 2, 2014, Judge Murphy threatened an assistant public defender with violence in open court, challenged him to a physical fight, engaged in the threatened struggle in which the two men had to be physically separated by a deputy, and reassumed the bench to handle cases where the defendants were without the presence of their attorney. Because of Judge Murphy’s appalling behavior, we conclude that there is clear and convincing evidence that Judge Murphy engaged in “conduct unbecoming a member of the judiciary demonstrating a present unfitness to hold office.”
The court's decision was 6-0, with Justice James Perry recusing himself.
The JQC had recommended a formal reprimand, 120-day suspension, $50,000 fine, mental health therapy and additional course work. Murphy had told the Supreme Court of a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs finding of a 30 percent disability based upon post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from combat service in Afghanistan.