Thursday, December 18, 2008

Judge Reprimanded for Letters to Publisher

The judge who sent threatening letters to the publisher of The Boston Herald received a public reprimand today from the Supreme Judicial Court. The SJC concluded that Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy violated standards of judicial ethics when he wrote two letters to Herald Publisher Patrick J. Purcell on official court letterhead demanding payment of a more than $2 million libel award. From today's opinion:
It is beyond serious dispute that the letters sent by Judge Murphy do not promote public confidence in the judiciary. Judge Murphy concedes that he should not have used judicial letterhead. But more than stationery is at issue here. Although a judge is not prohibited from communications related to personal litigation, including those in pursuit of settlement, permissible communications must reflect the standards required to be followed by a judge both on and off the bench.

"That the standards imposed on judges are high goes without saying. Because of the great power and responsibility judges have in passing judgment on their fellow citizens, such standards are desirable and necessary and there should be strict adherence to them. Failure on the part of even a few judges to comply with these standards serves to degrade and demean the entire judiciary and to erode public confidence in the judicial process." Matter of Morrissey, 366 Mass. 11, 16-17 (1974). In sending the letters at issue, Judge Murphy did not meet the high standards required of judges.
The full-text of the opinion is here: In the Matter of Ernest B. Murphy, SJC-10179 December 18, 2008.

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