Disbarment Recommended for Former Judge Patrick Murphy
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick B. Murphy should be disbarred for taking extended sick leave when he was perfectly capable of working and for lying to his presiding judge about the matter, a State Bar Court judge said.
Murphy engaged in “egregious” misconduct, collecting a full judicial paycheck while pursuing other interests—including teaching law, attending a Caribbean medical school, serving as an instructor at a citizen’s police academy, and taking science courses at a Los Angeles chiropractic college—Hearing Judge Robert Talcott said in a decision filed Monday.
“For approximately a five-year period, this experienced attorney and judge engaged in an extensive, lucrative pattern of dishonesty without regard to the adverse impact it might have on litigants, his colleagues, or the public’s perceptions of the judicial system,” Talcott wrote.
“He was indifferent to the pernicious effect his conduct might have on the public’s confidence in the legal profession,” the judge continued. “He manipulated the truth to suit his interests.”
Murphy, he said, “does not possess the integrity required to exercise the privilege of practicing law.”
Murphy was elected to the Citrus Municipal Court in 1992. He became a Superior Court judge through unification in 2000, returning from the Caribbean island nation of Dominica to take the oath of office after all of his former municipal court colleagues from around the county had done so.
Murphy claimed he was seriously ill while missing more than 120 weeks of work between 1996 and his 2001 resignation, which came just as the Commission on Judicial Performance was about to release a decision ordering his removal. He claimed to have various illnesses during those times, including colds or flu; neck, back, and head pain; a thyroid tumor; and chronic fatigue syndrome, Talcott noted, adding that Murphy later claimed to suffer from “judicial phobia.”
After leaving the bench, Murphy remained on inactive status with the State Bar until July 2002. The State Bar initiated disciplinary proceedings three months later.
At a status conference in January, Murphy, who represented himself in the proceedings, asked to enter the State Bar’s pilot diversion program for lawyers with substance abuse and mental health problems. But when he failed to appear on the second day of a scheduled trial in August, Talcott ordered that a default be entered and that Murphy be deemed ineligible for diversion and placed on involuntary inactive status by Talcott in August.
In his findings Monday, Talcott noted that Murphy—while trying to get into medical school—had obtained a certificate of good health from a physician who was unaware of his claimed illnesses, and that many individuals had seen Murphy while he was on sick leave and saw no indications of ill health. Yet then-Presiding Judge Rolf Treu testified that Murphy told him the thyroid tumor was malignant, although Murphy told the Commission on Judicial Performance he had told Treu no such thing.
Murphy, Talcott said, exhibited “moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption” in his dealings with Treu.
Talcott’s disbarment recommendation now goes to the three-judge Review Department.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company