Reason to Settle #128,543,28… The judge may punch you

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Thursday, December 17, 2015.

If you can settle your divorce, you may save thousands in fees and emotional aggravation. There are other reasons to settle. For instance, the judge might get mad and punch you in the head.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reported about a fight that broke out in a Florida courtroom between the Judge and criminal defense attorney. Today, the Florida Supreme Court rendered its own decision.

I’ve written about disorder in the court before. The moments leading up to the altercation were caught on video in which the judge could be heard threatening to beat up the lawyer.

“If you want to fight, let’s go out back, and I’ll just beat your ass,” Judge Murphy, a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, warned Mr. Weinstock before the two headed into a hallway off-camera behind the courtroom, at which point a violent scuffle could be heard.

For divorcing parties, the mediation process is a way to avoid having your own courtroom brawl. Mediation involves a neutral third-party mediator that meets with the lawyers and divorcing couple to reach an agreement on the issues in their divorce.

In addition to having angry judges decide your case, mediation offers a lot of flexibility, in terms of making your own decisions about what works best for your family.

Mediation, however, is not appropriate for all couples. For example, if one spouse is hiding assets or income, you may have to head to court where a judge can ‘take him or her to the woodshed’ so to speak.

Unfortunately for Judge Murphy, his courtroom antics landed him in front of Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates and hears allegations of misconduct by Florida judges.

The JQC recommended the judge get a public reprimand, be suspended without pay, pay $50,000, get mental health therapy and complete a Judicial Education Courses.

That recommendation did not fly with the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court can accept, reject, or modify the JQC’s recommendations.

One witness, Suzanne Carter, saw Judge Murphy grab Mr. Weinstock’s collar with his left hand and raise his right arm as if he were going to punch Mr. Weinstock. Ms. Carter heard “a bunch of punch, punch,” and Judge Murphy using expletives.

The Supreme Court removed the judge from office:

Because of Judge Murphy’s appalling behavior, we conclude that there is clear and convincing evidence that Judge Murphy engaged in “conduct unbecoming a member of the judiciary demonstrating a present unfitness to hold office.”

Today’s Florida Supreme Court Opinion is here.