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Fight Between a Lawyer and the Judge in a Florida Courtroom

The courtroom is a place where tension is normal. There’s a lot on the line and the risks can be huge, depending on the case. However, this doesn’t usually result in outbursts of rage or aggressive behavior. There had been popular situations in foreign parliaments where politicians had gotten into ferocious fights resulting in physical violence: for example, the infamous clash of the Taiwanese legislature from early 2007. Nevertheless, this is not the case for American courtrooms. Recently, there was an exception: in a Florida court, a Judge and a lawyer “took it outside” and got into a brawl.

This altercation, involving Judge John Murphy and assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock, was caught on camera, and the details were recorded. The issue that decanted in a physical altercation was simple: in an uncomplicated criminal matter, the Judge asked the public defender to waive the right to a speedy trial. He rejected this, and instead asked for a trial date. Judge Murphy started losing his patience and, irritated, he stated that, if he had a rock, he would throw it at the attorney. Weinstock was asked to take a sit more than once, to which he replied that he was the public defender and emphasized the right of his presence. Infuriated, the Judge taunted Weinstock, inciting him to fight by telling him to “go out back” where he would “beat his ass” - in those terms. Before the sentence was finished, the public defender was walking towards the door, ready to battle: “let’s go right now”, he uttered. Murphy followed him. They both stepped outside the camera, but what happened next can be heard: “you want to fuck with me?”, the Judge screamed. There are noticeable punch noises and grunts. According to the lawyer, he was grabbed from the collar the moment he walked into the hallway and received blows in the head, which he attempted to avoid. Shortly, the deputies came into the hallway and broke the fight.

After the confrontation, the Judge returned to his chair commenting to be out of breath. The people present in the courtroom clapped. However, the repercussions of this incident weren’t so good for the Judge, albeit his reputation being positive, as stated by his peers (Public Defender Blaise Trettis declared that this was an “uncharacteristic, isolated incident” that doesn’t reflect on the Judge’s outstanding legal career). 18th Circuit Chief Judge Harris affirmed that Judge Murphy will be taking a temporary leave of absence during which he’ll seek anger management counseling; although files weren’t charged.

It’s interesting to point out the diverged reactions to this case. For most people, the Judge was completely out of line and his behavior is unacceptable. Although this might be obvious (a Judge shouldn’t resolve to violence in any way), some have pointed out that the lawyer’s attitude was also out of line: he should’ve accepted the Judge’s authority, sat down when he was told to, and agreed with his decision. What must be underlined here is that, no matter what the situation is or who is acting inappropriately, the main focus should be the case and not personal interests or feuds.