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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Libeled Judge Who Won $3.4 Million Leaves Bench

Judge Who Won $3.4 Million After Being Libeled by Reporter Gives Up Bench
The Associated Press by Denise Lavoie - August 21, 2008

BOSTON (AP) — A judge who sent threatening letters to the Boston Herald's publisher after winning a $2 million libel award will not work as a judge again in Massachusetts, under a court order announced Wednesday. Judge Ernest Murphy and the state Commission on Judicial Conduct have agreed Murphy is "permanently disabled" from performing his judicial duties and that he would step down, according to the order from the state Supreme Judicia Court, Murphy has said the libel case with the Herald took a severe physical and emotional toll on him, and that he suffers from post-traumatic stress.

The case began in 2002, after the Herald published a series of stories depicting Murphy as soft on crime. Several quoted Murphy as saying a young rape victim should "Get over it." Murphy denied making the comment. He sued the Herald, and in 2005, a jury found the newspaper had libeled him and awarded him $2 million. The agreement announced Wednesday came after the Commission on Judicial Conduct initiated a complaint against Murphy in October, alleging that he "suffers from physical and/or mental disabilities that affect his performance." The complaint and most of the documents related to it were sealed by the court because they contain personal medical information about Murphy.

Murphy's attorney, Michael Mone, said he was prohibited from commenting on the agreement. Thomas Butters, another attorney who represented Murphy, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Howard Neff, a staff attorney for the commission, would not comment on details of the complaint, but said the court accepted the agreement and "ordered that Judge Murphy shall not sit again as a judge in Massachusetts." Separately, the Supreme Judicial Court is still weighing whether to impose on Murphy the commission's recommendation for a 30-day suspension without pay, $25,000 fine and public censure for using court letterhead to write a threatening letter to the Herald's publisher, Patrick Purcell.

Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Murphy will continue to receive his judicial pay for up to four months. During that period, he must use any accrued vacation and sick time. But the court rejected Murphy's request that he remain on paid administrative leave until he retires or the governor grants him a disability pension. The court noted that it does not make decisions about pensions. Murphy could seek a disability pension through the governor or the state retirement board. A spokeswoman for the newspaper, Gwen Gage, declined comment citing the ongoing case before the SJC.

Two days after he won the libel award from the Herald, Murphy sent the publisher a letter telling him to bring a check for $3.26 million to a private meeting. A separate single-page postscript warned Purcell that showing anyone the letter would be "a BIG mistake." In the second letter, Murphy told Purcell he had "ZERO chance" of reversing the jury's verdict on appeal. Murphy said he wrote the letters in an attempt to persuade the Herald not to appeal the jury's verdict. Last year, the Herald paid Murphy $3.4 million, including $1.4 million in interest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A lot of these judges become judges for the wrong reason. Why doesn't someone tell them that you don't become a judge to steal money for yourself and friends. Here, this nitwit found another way to have a windfall. Shame on them all.

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