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Misconduct Charges for Libeled Judge

Less than a month after receiving his $3.4 million payout of a libel verdict in his favor against the Boston Herald, Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy has been hit with formal charges of misconduct for writing threatening and intimidating letters to the newspaper's publisher. Associated Press reports that the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct today filed charges against Murphy with the Supreme Judicial Court. The CJC alleges that the judge engaged in "willful misconduct" that was unbecoming of a judicial officer, AP reports.

In 2005, a jury in Boston returned a $2.09 million verdict against the Herald and its reporter Dave Wedge. The case resulted from a series of articles that portrayed Murphy as lenient towards criminal defendants and that quoted him as saying that a 14-year-old rape victim should "get over it." In May, the SJC affirmed the verdict, and the newspaper paid the judgment plus interest a month later.

In letters written after the verdict to Herald publisher Patrick Purcell -- including one on court letterhead -- Murphy reportedly asked for more money.  In one, written three days after the verdict, Murphy asked for a meeting with Purcell, saying, according to AP: "You will bring to that meeting a cashiers check, payable to me, in the sum of $3,260,000. No check, no meeting." A separate note cautions Purcell that to tell anyone about the letter would be "a big mistake," with "big" in capital letters.

Murphy has not yet responded to the conduct commission's charges.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 10, 2007 at 06:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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