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Former judge, censured for dishonesty, loses his bar card

A former Los Angeles Superior Court judge who resigned from the bench in the face of disciplinary charges has now lost his license to practice law as well. The State Bar placed PATRICK B. MURPHY [#116015], 48, of West Covina on involuntary inactive enrollment Aug. 9 after he failed to appear at two hearings to determine his eligibility for an assistance program for lawyers with substance abuse or mental health problems.

Murphy had sought acceptance into the diversion program after being charged with unethical conduct last November and had appeared at one hearing. The bar is moving ahead with disbarment proceedings.

Murphy served as a municipal court judge at the Citrus courthouse in West Covina from 1992 until court unification in 2000, when he became a Superior Court judge. He resigned from the bench in 2001, the day before the Commission on Judicial Performance ordered his removal.

He had been accused of malingering, willful misconduct and dereliction of duty for falsely claiming more than 400 days of sick leave over a four-year period.

During that time, the commission found, he enrolled in medical school in the West Indies, took premed classes at a Los Angeles chiropractic school, taught at a local law school, appeared at depositions that were part of a federal lawsuit and was seen at public events and in public places, according to testimony in the proceedings against him.

He received full pay throughout the absences and the court was forced to hire retired judges to sit in for him, at a cost of more than $80,000, according to testimony.

The bar filed charges against Murphy four months after he reactivated his law license. The charges include four counts of misconduct, including moral turpitude, failure to maintain respect to the court and seeking to mislead a judge.

The alleged dishonesty included obtaining a certificate of good health from a physician who was not aware of Murphy’s various medical problems, obtaining a letter as part of his visa application that stated he was traveling to Dominica on vacation, misrepresenting the status of his medical condition to the presiding judge and violating court rules requiring that judges keep the court apprised of their whereabouts when they are away.

In his response to the bar charges, Murphy said that contrary to allegations that he performed skillfully in the proceedings before the commission, he was actually in a fog due to a combination of mood-altering drugs and muscle relaxants.

He said while he was on sick leave, he had severe health problems ranging from fibromyalgia, a pain-related disorder, to chronic fatigue to anxiety, depression and panic attacks that caused “judicial phobia.” The phobia made him extremely nervous and prevented him from doing his work, he said.

Murphy also said he was going through a contentious divorce and had financial problems. In addition, he was sued in federal court and accused of helping a physician friend who was in the middle of a divorce to conceal more than $1.8 million in assets. The suit settled and Murphy paid nothing.

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