A Florida judge is stepping down from the bench after a courtroom incident in which he allegedly punched an attorney.
Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge John M. Harris said in a statement Tuesday that Judge John Murphy "has agreed to seek anger management counseling and treatment during a temporary leave of absence." On Monday, video of an altercation between Judge Murphy and Assistant Public Defender Andrew Weinstock went viral online.
"This isolated event in no way reflects the typical manner that courtrooms in Brevard and Seminole Counties are managed by the hardworking and conscientious judges in this circuit," Judge Harris wrote in his statement. "People come to court seeking justice and a peaceful resolution to their conflicts and they have the right to expect a much higher standard of behavior from our judges than was exhibited in court yesterday."
The argument began when the assistant public defender refused to waive his client's right to a speedy trial.
"You know, if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now," Judge Murphy retorted. "Stop pissing me off! Just sit down."
Weinstock refused, citing his right to stand and represent his clients.
"If you want to fight, let's go out back, and I'll just beat your a--," the judge says from the bench. The two then walk off camera to a back hallway designated for judges and attorneys. On the video, a scuffle can be heard with the judge yelling, "You wanna (expletive) with me?"
Public Defender Blaise Trettis told Florida Today, "The lawyer said as soon as he got in the hallway, the judge grabbed him by the collar and began punching him in the head." Courtroom bailiffs broke up the fracas.
The Florida Bar confirmed to the newspaper that there is an open investigation. Judge Harris noted in his statement that all of Judge Murphy's pending cases have been temporarily reassigned.