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BOSTON �� The Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended a $25,000 fine, a 30-day suspension without pay and a public censure for state court Judge Ernest B. Murphy for sending improper letters to Boston Herald publisher Patrick J. Purcell that demanded settlement of Murphy’s libel lawsuit against the newspaper. The commission made its recommendations to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which makes final rulings on judicial disciplinary cases. The commission concluded that Murphy’s conduct was willful and that he attempted to both intimidate Purcell and persuade the Herald to pay him more than the courts had awarded him at that point in the case. In a statement, Purcell said he was “appreciative” of the commission’s approach and “very pleased with its findings and recommendations.” Murphy’s Feb. 20, 2005 letter, which was on court stationary, warned Purcell that it would be a “mistake. In fact, a BIG mistake” to show the letter to anyone except “the gentleman whose authorized signature will be affixed to the check in question.” Murphy’s second letter said Purcell had “ZERO” chance of winning an appeal. Murphy sued the Herald for libel over stories quoting “several courthouse sources” that allegedly heard Murphy say a teenage rape victim should “get over it.” Murphy said the stories sparked virulent public criticism and nationwide attention that caused significant emotional strain for him and his family. A jury awarded Murphy $2.09 million in February 2005. The amount was reduced to $2.01 million, but the Herald paid Murphy $3.4 million including interest after Murphy won an appeal in May 2007. Murphy did not return a message left at Suffolk Superior Court. His lawyer, Michael E. Mone Sr. of Boston’s Esdaile, Barrett & Esdaile, did not return a call for comment. See related article, “ A judge and newspaper escalate their legal war“.

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