Judge in $2 M Libel Case Seeks to Retire

A judge who won a $2 million libel verdict against the Boston Herald is now on sick leave and seeking to retire on a disability pension.

Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy says he is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of the paper’s coverage criticizing his judicial conduct, and the hate mail and subsequent five-year legal battle with the newspaper that followed, reports the Boston Globe (reg. req.). In particular, the Herald’s false claim that Murphy had made disparaging comments about a 14-year-old rape victim ignited public outrage.

However, the state governor said yesterday that he will not approve Murphy’s request for an annual disability pension of just under $100,000, tax-free, the Globe reports. Murphy, 64, who is three years shy of the 10 years of service on the bench required to qualify for a less lucrative standard retirement pension, is currently facing judicial ethics charges.

As discussed in an earlier post, Murphy allegedly stepped over an ethical line by writing letters to the Herald’s publisher, after the 2005 verdict, demanding money. The newspaper appealed the $2 million jury award, which was affirmed by the state supreme court in May, as another post details. The Herald has since paid Murphy $3.4 million, which includes $1.4 million in post-judgment interest.

“He is disabled. … “He has significant physical and mental problems and significant post-traumatic disorder,” Michael E. Mone, a Boston lawyer who represented Murphy in the libel case, told the Globe yesterday. He says the judge has been found by his doctors to be physically and mentally unfit to continue as a judge because of the bitter libel battle.

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