Tuesday, August 4, 2009

U.S. District Court rules on Judge Ernest Murphy's claim against Boston Herald's insurer

Another chapter in the long, sometimes strange story of former Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy's libel suit against the Boston Herald:

The Boston Herald published a story claiming that Judge Murphy had told a 14year old rape victim to "get over it." Judge Murphy sued the Herald for libel and won. He then sent somewhat threatening letters directly to the Herald (rather than its attorneys) on trial court stationery demanding that it drop its appeal. (Contrary to what you might sometimes see on TV, parties in a lawsuit are forbidden from communicating directly with each other; they may communicate only through their attorneys. And judges are forbidden from communicating personal business on court stationery.)

The judge subsequently asserted that he suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of the Herald's articles and entered into an agreement with the Superior Court by which he agreed that he is permanently disabled from performing his judicial duties.

The most recent chapter in this case is Judge Murphy's lawsuit against the Herald's insurer, in which he sought damages for the insurer's failure to promptly settle his libel claim. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has dismissed his claim in Mut. Ins. Co. v. Murphy, on the grounds that the Herald rather than the insurer exercised control over the defense.

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