Legal Ethics

Embattled judge in court confrontation video now waging war of words over PTSD finding

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A Florida judge who was suspended without pay in October over a courthouse confrontation with an attorney that was partially captured on video, is now in a war of words over his PTSD diagnosis.

Brevard County Judge John Murphy is a military veteran who saw combat in Afghanistan. He revealed his post traumatic stress disorder—for which he received a 30 percent disability rating by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—in response to a state supreme court order to show cause why he should not be removed from the bench, Florida Today reports. An earlier Florida Today story provides additional details.

However, the revelation prompted claims by a special counsel for the Florida Judicial Qualifications Committee that the June 2014 incident in which Murphy challenged a public defender to a fistfight might not be an isolated incident. A written filing also said news of the PTSD diagnosis presents “a striking inconsistency” with Murphy’s prior testimony that a repeat of the incident was most unlikely, the newspaper reports.

“It is a given that the performance of one’s duties as a trial judge involves periods of ‘significant stress,’ ” the special counsel wrote. “Because Judge Murphy has admitted that he suffers a 30 percent disability based on PTSD, it follows that he could easily have another physical reaction.”

However, in a Monday response, the judge’s attorney said the special counsel is out of line in attempting to use “the stigma of PTSD” and the “mild symptoms associated with it” to argue for Murphy’s removal despite his “comprehensive and continuing efforts to understand and manage his behavior.

“It is shameful to suggest,” the filing continues, “that a man who served his country in the military should now be prevented from serving as a judge because of his combat ‘injury,’ as the special counsel does here, even though he served with distinction in both war and on the bench.”

Related coverage: (May 2015): “Judge on paid leave, seeking counseling after reported fight with public defender outside courtroom”

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