Brevard County Judge Punches Lawyer in Court

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

On June 2, 2014, a verbal argument over a procedural issue between a Brevard County judge and a public defender allegedly ended in physical violence when the judge made good on his threat to beat the lawyer’s ass.  In court that day, public defender Andrew Weinstock refused to waive his criminal client’s right to a speedy trial, a move that angered Judge John Murphy.  In a video of the fight that has since gone viral, the judge first threatens to throw a rock at Weinstock for “pissing me off”.  When Weinstock refused to sit down, the judge challenges him to a fight and tells Weinstock “I’ll just beat your ass”.

Things then move off camera as Weinstock and the judge go into a hallway.  There you can hear loud noises and the judge cursing further at the attorney.  The judge then enters the courtroom out of breath. 

According to Weinstock’s boss, Weinstock went in to the hallway because he thought the judge wanted to speak to him.  Instead, Judge Murphy immediately grabbed him by the collar and started hitting him, causing deputies to have to separate the two.   Weinstock was immediately assigned to another judge but has taken a few days off because of the incident.

The next day, the media and spectators crowded Judge Murphy’s courtroom after the video blew up on the internet and ended up on news outlets worldwide.  Judge Murphy was not presiding over his courtroom that day however, and was temporarily replaced by a colleague.

On the afternoon of June 3, 2014, the Brevard County Court released a written statement that Judge Murphy was put on a leave of absence and that his cases would be assigned to other judges.  In the statement, the Chief Justice also stated that Murphy would be seeking anger management counseling due to the incident and that the incident was unacceptable. 

According to the Florida State Bar, there has been a file opened on Judge Murphy because of this incident.  The Judicial Qualification Commission was unable to confirm if there is an investigation in to this incident, but did confirm with Florida Today that this is they type of complaint that they would handle.  Weinstock declined to press criminal charges against Murphy.

It is hard to say at this point in time what the consequences will be for Murphy in this case.  It appears that he escaped any criminal charge, such as one for assault.  However, because of the extremely public nature of his meltdown, the Florida Bar and the Judicial Qualification Commission are both going to be forced to take swift action against him.  There are many things that can happen to him at this point from suspension to a reprimand and it is impossible to tell what will be his punishment.  It is extremely unlikely he will totally escape consequence for his actions here however.