Legal Ethics

Judge Who Won Libel Verdict Defends Ethics Charge

A judge who won a $2.1 million libel verdict against the Boston Herald choked up as he defended himself on ethics charges that he used court stationery to demand even more money to conclude the case.

The Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct has accused Judge Ernest Murphy of using court letterhead to conduct his personal business. One letter invited the Herald’s publisher to lunch to resolve the dispute and directed him to bring a check for $500,000 more than the amount of the judgment plus interest, the Boston Herald reports.

“You will bring to that meeting a cashier’s check, payable to me, in the sum of $3,260,000,” the letter read. “No check. No meeting. You will give me that check and I shall put it in my pocket.”

Murphy choked up at times as he testified he sent the letters in hopes of fending off a drawn-out appeal. “It was killing me and my family,” he said. The judge’s libel suit had contended the newspaper falsely quoted him as recommending that a 14-year-old rape victim be told to “get over it,” the Associated Press reports.

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