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Public Reprimand, But No Fine, for Judge Who Wrote Threatening Letters

Posted Dec 18, 2008 1:24 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Massachusetts’ highest court has publicly reprimanded a Boston judge who wrote two letters to the publisher of the Boston Herald pressuring the paper to pay him $3.26 million to resolve a libel appeal.

The opinion released today says Judge Ernest Murphy “plainly crossed the line” when he wrote the letters, the Boston Globe reports. Murphy had successfully sued the newspaper for articles that portrayed him as insensitive to rape victims.

A judicial ethics commission had recommended a $25,000 fine and 30-day suspension.

Murphy sent both letters on court stationery after he won a $2.1 million libel verdict against the Herald in 2005. 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. “No check. No meeting,” the letter said.

Murphy resigned in August due to an unspecified disability. The court’s opinion noted the resignation and said a public reprimand was appropriate in light of the fact that he will never again sit as a state judge. He will also be required to pay the judicial commission’s costs, the Associated Press reports.

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