Combative judge returns to bench calm, collected

Judge John C. Murphy now handles civil cases in Titusville.

BREVARD, Fla. — After a profane argument with an assistant public defender that invited national media coverage, a four-week paid leave of absence, anger management counseling and a public letter of apology, Judge John C. Murphy’s first day back to work Monday was uneventful.

He traded jobs with Judge Michelle Vitt Baker. Murphy now handles civil cases in Titusville, Fla. Monday, he handled disputes over debt. Normally, this would have happened in his chambers, but the media was invited to watch him in a courtroom.

Murphy wore a star-spangled tie, maintained a cool demeanor and proceeded with business as usual. He was polite to everyone involved.

He addressed a couple representing themselves regarding the wife’s credit card debt. An attorney phoned in to represent the agency seeking to collect more than $20,000. Murphy ruled that the agency can recover the money.

“The law is sometimes harsh,” the judge told them.

The husband asked if they could go get a lawyer.

“Um, well, unfortunately, um, we don’t have a professional league and an amateur league. And today, the day of the hearing, that’s what it is. And sometimes it is harsh. But I am going to enter the final judgment because the law requires me to do that.”.

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Though the husband said he would appeal the decision, he thanked the judge for being fair.

“I do my best,” he replied.

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