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Boston Libel Judge Resigns From Bench

Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy gained national notoriety when he won a $2 million libel verdict against the Boston Herald in 2005. His notoriety later took a different turn when the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct (CJC) filed charges against him for writing threatening letters on court stationary to the Herald's publisher trying to collect that verdict. Now, Murphy says he is "permanently disabled from performing his judicial duties" and will step down from the bench.

It was revealed yesterday that the CJC in October filed a separate set of charges against Murphy alleging that he "suffers from physical and/or mental disabilities that affect his performance." Because of the nature of the charges, the Supreme Judicial Court impounded them. In a statement in support of the charges filed in June, CJC Acting Chairman Stephen E. Neel wrote that a combination of personality factors and cognitive defects impair Murphy's fitness to be a judge.

Specifically, neurocognitive, neuropsychiatric and personality factors constitute likely bases for inappropriate behavior and failure to make sound decisions on which to rest judicial rulings. In addition, Judge Murphy lacks the insight to recognize these deficits.

Murphy has claimed that his long legal battle against the Herald left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been on paid leave of absence since July 30, 2007, collecting his full judicial salary of $129,694.

The judge sued the Herald over a series of stories in 2002 that portrayed him as insensitive to crime victims. One report alleged that he told a 14-year-old rape victim to "get over it." These stories led to a flood of hate mail and threats to his family, he said. During the Herald's appeal of the verdict, Murphy wrote to publisher Patrick Purcell demanding that the paper give him a check for $3.26 million. Murphy's letter told Purcell it would be a "BIG mistake" for him to share the letters with his lawyers.

Charges relating to those letters remain pending, according to the CJC announcement issued yesterday.  More on this story is available from the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 21, 2008 at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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