Monday, June 30, 2014
Florida judge suspended for courthouse fisticuffs returns to work
BY BARBARA LISTON
ORLANDO Fla. Mon Jun 30, 2014 4:11pm EDT
BY BARBARA LISTON
ORLANDO Fla. Mon Jun 30, 2014 4:11pm EDT
(Reuters) - A Florida judge who was caught on courtroom video challenging a defense lawyer to a fistfight returned to work on Monday after four weeks of anger management counseling, the court said.
Judge John Murphy of Brevard County will remain in counseling indefinitely and be reassigned to civil from criminal case duty, Chief Judge John Harris said in a statement.
Murphy, during a June 2 hearing in his courtroom, invited veteran assistant public defender Andrew Weinstock to join him outside to settle a dispute over the scheduling of a trial date.
“If you want to fight, let’s go out back and I’ll just beat your ass,” Murphy said on the video.
The challenge came after the judge became angry when Weinstock refused to waive his client's constitutional right to a speedy trial. Under Florida law, defendants have the right to a trial within 90 days for a misdemeanor and 175 days for a felony.
“If I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down,” Murphy can be heard telling Weinstock on the video.
Weinstock refused to sit and could be seen on the video walking out of frame toward the courtroom’s back door.
The video, from a court camera in a fixed position, continued to roll, picking up the sound of loud fighting talk in the hallway and banging noises.
“According to the lawyer, the judge grabbed him about the collar as soon as he walked into the hallway and began punching him in the head, and the lawyer just tried to stop the blows," Weinstock’s boss, Public Defender Blaise Trettis, told Reuters.
Harris wrote in his statement that switching Murphy to civil trials was done to promote efficient administration of justice and should not be seen as punishment, which he noted was beyond his authority.
Harris also wrote that the local chief prosecutor and Trettis had given their unqualified support for Murphy’s return to the bench.
Trettis told Reuters at the time that the incident was out of character for Murphy, who he said had a good reputation.
Murphy has not commented publicly on the incident.
Obama is expected to announce plans to “fix as much of our broken immigration system as we can” through executive action, according to a White House official.
Obama will say that Congress’ failure to pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure has worsened problems on the border. White House officials had held out hope until recently that the House might consider some form of immigration legislation and because of that had resisted pressure for executive action on the subject, but Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told Obama last week that the House would not vote this year, the official said.
Obama also plans to announce that Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will travel to Central America in July to try to enlist regional governments in an effort to reduce the number of children coming across the border from Mexico.
He will ask Johnson and heads of other government departments to report to him by the end of the summer on “steps he can take without Congress but within his existing authorities” to improve the system for deporting people in the country illegally and fix other problematic aspects of the immigration system.
*********************************************************************************President Barack Obama said Monday he was starting "a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress," adding that he directed his team to recommend steps he can take this summer and that he would then act on those steps "without delay."
Obama said he plans to take executive action on immigration reform after House Speaker John Boehner told him last week the House won't vote on a comprehensive bill this year, a White House official said.
Obama will make a statement on immigration at the White House later Monday to announce some steps, including a request for emergency funds as the United States grapples with a surge of undocumented children and adults crossing the border from Mexico.
According to the official, Obama will order a shift in security resources to border regions and call for additional action he can take "without Congress but within his existing authorities to fix as much of our broken immigration system as we can."
The President also sent Congress a letter asking that legislators work with him on providing additional money and leeway to deal with the situation on the southern border.
On Sunday, an administration official told CNN the money will go to securing appropriate space for the detention of children but also stemming the tide of immigrants.
The government hopes to increase its ability to investigate and dismantle smuggling organizations as well as quickly return children and adults to their home countries if they do not qualify for asylum, according to that official.
So far, the federal government has struggled to process and accommodate the influx of illegal human traffic but specifically the spike in children.
U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 to 80,000 children without parents will cross the border this year in what the White House is calling an "immediate humanitarian crisis."
Earlier in June, the White House announced a plan to spend millions in a government-wide response by sending aide to governments in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to help with crime and violence prevention.
In mid-June, Vice President Joe Biden also spoke with leaders in the three countries as well as Mexico about working together to promote security.
Biden's objective was to emphasize that adults arriving with their children in the United States don't meet the requirements for a policy that defers deportation for children brought to the United States before June 15, 2012.
Obama also spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto about the issue and has warned families who see the dangerous trip as the best option for their children.
In a vast expansion of its safety crisis, General Motors recalled more than 8.4 million vehicles worldwide on Monday, bringing its total figures for the year above 28 million cars — more than the 22 million recalled last year by all of the automakers combined.
Among the recalled vehicles, G.M. said it was aware of seven crashes, eight injuries and three fatalities. About 8.2 million of the newly recalled cars have ignition defects that lead to inadvertent key rotation, and are models of the Cadillac CTS and SRX, and the Chevrolet Malibu, Monte Carlo and Impala, as well as the Oldsmobile Intrigue and Alero, and Pontiac Grand Am and Grand Prix. The model years range from 1997 to 2014.
Almost all of G.M.'s recalls have come since the automaker in February began recalling 2.6 million older Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars with a defective ignition switch that it has tied to at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes. Earlier Monday, Kenneth R. Feinberg, who was retained by G.M. to develop a victim compensation program, announced the provisions to deal with claims of injury and wrongful death.
“We undertook what I believe is the most comprehensive safety review in the history of our company because nothing is more important than the safety of our customers,” G.M.'s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, said in a statement. “Our customers deserve more than we delivered in these vehicles. That has hardened my resolve to set a new industry standard for vehicle safety, quality and excellence.”
Trading in G.M. stock was suspended on the New York Stock Exchange while the announcement was made.