Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 23, 2003


Page 3


Murphy Tells State Bar Court He Was in a ‘Fog’ During Long Absence From Bench


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick B. Murphy has told the State Bar Court he was seriously ill while missing more than 120 weeks of work between 1996 and his 2001 resignation.

In his response to disciplinary charges, a copy of which was obtained yesterday by the MetNews, Murphy acknowledged that he appeared at community events, taught law school classes, attended a chiropractic college, and enrolled in medical school during that time.

Murphy missed more than 80 weeks of work from 1996 to 1999 and stopped working for good in June 2000.

He was suffering the whole time, he said, from problems that included extreme fatigue and “judicial phobia,” manifested in panic attacks and diagnosed by his psychiatrist, that caused him to avoid the courtroom.

The State Bar filed charges against Murphy Nov. 15, a little over four months after he reactivated his membership. He had not attempted to practice law for 26 months following his May 2001 resignation from the bench.

Murphy is representing himself in the discipline case, which has been assigned to State Bar Court Hearing Judge Robert Talcott. He likewise defended himself against a discipline proceeding brought by the Commission on Judicial Performance, which censured him and barred him from performing court-assigned work after finding that he abandoned his office and brought the judiciary into disrepute.

The commission said that Murphy’s conduct merited removal. But Murphy’s letter of resignation, which arrived at the Governor’s Office a day before the commission acted, apparently deprived it of jurisdiction to issue a removal order.

State Bar lawyers Paul O’Brien and Charles Calix, generally tracking the findings of the CJP, alleged in the formal notice of charges that Murphy’s actions while away from his judicial duties, including his having “performed as an experienced and skilled courtroom attorney” at his judicial discipline hearing two years ago, show that he was able to perform as a judge during his claimed illnesses.

But Murphy, who unsuccessfully requested an illness-related continuance in the midst of the four-day hearing, said in his response that he was in a `’fog” caused by his use of four prescribed medications during that time.

The special masters told him to continue, Murphy said. “When (I) was in pain and couldn’t continue, (I) was told to ingest medication,” the ex-jurst wrote. “The proceeding ... evidenced a confused, irrational and defenseless (person).”

A physician appointed by the commission to examine Murphy said he was disabled, he added.

Murphy was also going through a difficult divorce, was being sued in two well-publicized federal court lawsuits and was dealing with Internal Revenue Service liens put on his assets, he added. He described the suits, which were settled, as “specious.”

The plaintiffs in the suits alleged Murphy helped launder more than $1.8 million belonging to a friend, Dr. George Taus, who was involved in a bitter divorce. An attorney involved in the case said he believes the matter is still under criminal investigation, but a prosecutor said she could neither confirm nor deny the assertion.

The bar lawyers noted Murphy enrolled in Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica in the Caribbean in late 1999, but returned abruptly in January 2000. His supervisor in 1999, now-Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu, then presiding judge of the Citrus Municipal Court, said Murphy was on sick leave at the time and never told Treu he was in medical school, the bar attorneys said.

In his response, Murphy said he kept Treu up to date on his sick leave, although he did not have to. “It is {false] to assert [I] in any way misled Judge Treu as to [my] medical condition,” Murphy said.

Murphy denied he abused sick leave to teach at Glendale University College of Law from 1996 to 1998. He said that much of the time he was heavily medicated and that affected his teaching.

His 1999 attendance at Cleveland College of Chiropractic in Los Angeles, where he took what the State Bar attorneys described as “intense” science courses, did not prove that he was healthy and able to work fulltime, Murphy insisted. He treated the classes, he explained, as a stimulus” that allowed him “to focus” but that he “could not multi-focus as required to work as a judge.”

Murphy was elected to the Citrus court in 1992 and served from 1993 until he became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge through unification three years ago.


Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company