Story from ABA Journal
After judge’s fistfight with public defender was broken up, he returned to the bench, says report
By Martha Neil
Jun 2, 2014, 05:45 pm CDT
Updated: A Florida judge told a veteran public defender to step outside the courtroom on Monday, then punched the attorney until sheriff’s deputies broke up the altercation, WFTV reports.
Although the incident occurred outside the range of a court camera, it captured audio, including what the station describes as several loud thuds. No one was charged in the incident, and Brevard County Judge John Murphy is said to have gone back on the bench afterward and continued his criminal court call.
The fireworks occurred after a courtroom dispute in which assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock resisted pressure to waive his client’s speedy trial rights.
“If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass,” Murphy told Weinstock as the two men exited the courtroom, WFTV reports. A short time earlier, the judge said: “You know, if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down.”
Weinstock said he had expected to talk with the judge in the hallway outside the courtroom, 18th Judicial Court public defender Blaise Trettis told the station. “The attorney said that immediately upon entering the hallway he was grabbed by the collar and began to be struck. There was no discussion, no talk, not even time for anything. Just as soon as they’re in the hallway, the attorney was grabbed.”
Florida Today has obtained the courtroom video and reports that those in the courtroom applauded as the judge returned to the bench saying: “I will catch my breath eventually.”
WKMG also has a story and video.
The articles don’t include any comment from the judge or any court official.
Weinstock has now been assigned to another courtroom.
in a Tuesday written statement, Chief Judge John M. Harris said Murphy is on a paid temporary leave of absence and has agreed to take anger management classes and get unspecified “treatment.”
A spokeswoman told Florida Today on Tuesday that the Florida Bar is looking into the incident. Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission would not confirm to the newspaper whether it was investigating Murphy.
A county sheriff’s spokeswoman said Tuesday that the department is seeking statements from both Murphy and Weinstock.
Updated on June 5 to include more information from a subsequent ABAJournal.com post.