By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Judge Murphy’s latest money grab

Is there no end to Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy’s greed? Apparently not. Murphy is now suing the Boston Herald’s insurance company for $6.8 million merely because it allowed the paper to defend itself against the judge’s libel suit, and then allowed an appeal of the jury’s $2 million-plus verdict (Globe story here; Herald story here). Absolutely incredible.

Murphy had already managed to squander nearly all of the goodwill he’d garnered as a victim of the Herald’s sensationalistic, flawed reporting about him — first by sending bizarre, threatening letters to publisher Pat Purcell, and then, more recently, by trying to grab a disability pension to which Gov. Deval Patrick rightly concluded he wasn’t entitled. Now this.

When this all started a few years ago, I was sympathetic to Murphy, though not to his lawsuit. As a public official, he had the platform he needed to speak out and defend himself against charges he believed were unfair and inaccurate. No need to turn it into a libel case.

Unless, that is, he saw this as a chance to cash in right from the beginning.

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  1. Anonymous

    Dan, you and I disagree on some things but on this one you are spot on. I keep thinking I’m missing something, that no one in their right mind could be so tone-deaf, arrogant and clueless as to endanger their sinecure at what Howie Carr once referred to as “going to heaven without dying”. That said, some of the finest people I have ever met were lawyers and judges. They don’t deserve the stigma attached to this thug.How he made it past the judicial nominating process is truly a mystery. When a person in his job needs a good “dope slap”, the system is profoundly broken.

  2. Aunt Nancy

    Somebody needs to tell Judge Murphy to get over it. Oops! Forget I said that….

  3. Ryan

    He will surely lose this, he loses his disability pension, and may get a monster of a slap upside of his head from his alleged misconduct. All we need now is Nelson character from the Simpson giving Easy Ernie his patented “Ha – Ha”

  4. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Whoa.1. Gov. Patrick played politics with the working of a state agency when he killed murphy’s pension application. There are procedures for handling such applicaitons and the Supreme Executive Magistrate ought not to get involved. If it’s okay to kill one, it becomes okay to order one approved. This Ed King arrogance shown by Patrick is appalling.2. Murphy wrote a settlement demand letter. Happens all the time in all sorts of legal actions.3. There is a provision of state law that gives people a right to sue under the consumer protectoin statute for treble damages when an insurer refuses to enter into settlement discussions in good faith once liability becomes reasonably clear. Murphy won his case; if the insurer wouldn’t discuss settlement he is entitled to bring an action against the insurer, the same way any other citizen has that right. He doesn’t lose his citizenship because he is a judge or because his libel suit is unpopular in certain quarters, nor does the insurer lose its obligation to promptly settle legitimate claims because the party being sued owns a printing press and can twist public opinion. Murphy won his suit, therefore his claim is legitimate. the insurer gambled that there was no liability and lost once, now stands to lose again by forcing a citzen to sue because of the insurer failed and refused to make a legitimate settlement offer ($100 is not a legitimate settlement offer when liability was not only established, it was compensated by $3.41 million. Once his damages in the tort action were established, his consumer protection complain automaticaly became worth three times the damage award by operation of law, not by mere greed.)

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Amused: I’ll let #1 and #3 go for time being, but let’s not forget that #2 is now the subject of a complaint before the Judicial Conduct Commission. That was no ordinary settlement demand letter, starting with the fact that he wrote it on his official stationery.

  6. Rick in Duxbury

    Dan, I’ll take up the cudgel, (legal advice not implied). Unless there is a provision of MGL Ch. 93-A which I missed, there is nothing “automatic” about the worth of the judgment. If someone commits consumer fraud, an award CAN be granted of UP TO 3 times the damages, plus legal costs. It is presumed that the relationship between plaintiff and defendant is one of normal commerce, e.g., appliance dealer screws you, you have a cause of action; guy next door (not in the business) sells same lousy refrigerator to you, no 93-A, (other avenues of course). It was designed for unsophisticated consumers to level the playing field with unscrupulous business operators. The judge is plenty of things but a naif, he ain’t. As to #1, anyone who thinks Ed King was more or less arrogant than those before or after him in the corner office obviously never spent much time on Beacon Hill. Jeez, you order a couple of lobster rolls and…..

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