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Deja Vu
12 November, 2009  

From Justinian’s vast treasure trove of stories from the hard copy era comes the famous exchange between celebrity solicitor Chris Murphy and magistrate Douglas Simpson … Don’t call me “insolent” ... Custody cases get priority over Murph’s costs … Complaint about solicitor’s conduct goes nowhere

Show some respect, you’re speaking to Murphy

From Justinian September 1991

Dramatis Personae

Douglas Simpson, Magistrate, then of Blacktown.
Chris Murphy, a leading criminal lawyer.
Ms Feldman, the accused.
Police Prosecutor.

Act One

Bench: There is no prima facie case and the charge is dismissed.

Murphy: Question of costs your Worship?

Bench: I put that aside until two o’clock.


Murphy: Can we finish off this matter of mine now, your Worship?

Bench: I’m concerned about people in custody.

Murphy: I appreciate it, your Worship, but we’re now dealing with – if I might just indulge for a second, your imageWorship. There is a thing called professional respect and I don’t think I’m being afforded it your Worship. The situation is that we dealt with then an unrepresented person on a minor matter before the court. Now I’ve been practising law for eighteen years. It may be different in other courts but Blacktown, but when I’m sitting at the bar table and I’m told to come back to the court at two o’clock and I’ve come from the city and I’ve appeared for a person who has charges against them dismissed, thus suggesting from that very circumstance alone there’s been a miscarriage of justice because they shouldn’t have been charged in the first place, then your Worship, I want my matter to be finished. I want it to be finished – this involved the taking of $80,000 – $75,000 off a person improperly and there are matters to be attended to now to recover that money and I’m here ready to proceed.

Bench: Thank you. Now the person is custody is?


Murphy: I take it you’re not answering me am I to be treated with that ignorance?

Bench: I’m not answering you.

Murphy: Is that how you treat practitioners up here, with that degree of ignorance? You’re just like me, you’re an officer of the court, now you treat me with respect. I won’t take that from you, you treat me with respect.

Bench: All right well perhaps you’d better leave this court –

Murphy: No, no I’ve got a right to be here, you treat me with respect. Don’t you dare move onto another matter after I address you. You dare to turn to a police prosecutor who’s not even a member of the legal profession and have a chat with him after I make an application to you. How dare you dismiss me so lightly I shall refer this to other places but don’t dare treat me like that in this court. That’s humiliating and insulting and I won’t be treated – I’m not treated like that by anyone in the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal or any other jurisdiction of any court of NSW of which I’m an officer of the court. So if I make a submission to you you answer me, don’t turn your head the other way and talk to a police prosecutor.

Bench: Yes sergeant?


Murphy: It’s now ten to three and there are no other matters before the court nor matters called. Is your Worship prepared to finalise that matter that I’m involved in?

Bench: No.

Murphy: Well you took another matter at two o’clock that you finalised. This isn’t a schoolhouse you know, your Worship, you can’t punish people like a teacher. This application of mine will take about three minutes and it’s ready to proceed. It’s very interesting to sit here and listen to your Worship adjudicating on matters but I’ve got other things to do too. There’s no-one in court and there is no work being done. You can’t, I suggest to you, use your power to just sit there and do nothing your Worship, and we can get on with this case and I’m here and ready to proceed. Are you listening to me or is there something taking your attention up there, can we have a conversation, can you fulfil your office as an officer of the court and talk to me when I address you instead of being ignorant towards me? Your Worship is shuffling papers and looking the other way – do you hear me? Perhaps if I came nearer or spoke louder, perhaps is there some little problem up there your Worship? Your Worship, I’m speaking to you, could you please acknowledge or exercise some judicial function even if it’s to tell me to sit down or shut up or something. But if we could just get something going between us your Worship I could plead my address. Well I’ll just take a seat until your Worship decides to do some court business.

For the record your Worship I’ve waited seven minutes for you to talk to me or for you to say something in this court. I’ve addressed you and you’ve refused to answer and you’ve refused to answer and you’ve just sat there. Just for the record your Worship, it’s now three minutes to three.


Bench: I return to the Feldman case and I give you the opportunity, Mr Murphy, of apologising unreservedly for our insolent outburst.

Murphy: Listen, your Worship, don’t use the word “insolent” if you don’t mind. I’ve seen another occasion where your Worship had made loose remarks about a solicitor’s reputation and I don’t think it’s your function, so I don’t think you should use the word “insolent”. I regard your behaviour and your treatment of me today in this courtroom as quite improper. This was a case which was brought before this court on a number of occasions with a view to expediting the matter.

Bench: Are you apologising or not?

Murphy: I’m not apologising to you under any circumstances.

Bench: Sit down for the present because I have something to say.

Murphy: Well if you’re going to make a remark …

Bench: At the time of this …

Murphy: If you’re going to make any remark affecting my reputation I would advise you not to.

Bench: At the time of this insolent outburst …

Murphy: No, “insolent” is your word, I won’t tolerate that expression.

Bench: ... there were still five persons in custody. To those people I give priority. In the time between each such person leaving the court and the next being brought in there is insufficient time to deal with submissions concerning costs in the Feldman case, but there is time or there was time to deal with incidental matters such as adjournments, reading affidavits in the urgent custody matter which I gave – which I still have to hear this afternoon, which is considerably more important. I cannot discharge my judicial functions properly when treated to patronising insolence and I fear how it may appear to the defendant and the court as to exercising my discretion in this case while subjected to such insolence and not apologised for. Consequently, I’m not hearing Mr Murphy any more in this case and I now speak to Ms Feldman. Do you wish to go ahead with this case today unrepresented …

Ms Feldman: No.

Bench: Or do you want me to adjourn the case so that you can obtain somebody else to represent you?

Ms Feldman: I’m sorry, yes, I’d like it determined today.

Murphy: Your Worship we have supervisory courts, is your Worship indicating – I want you to indicate now and make a ruling – am I, your Worship, not able to appear in this matter today. Now, your Worship, you make a ruling on that.

Bench: Not until there’s an apology Mr Murphy –

Murphy: There will be no apology. You don’t have that authority your Worship. You have the authority to deal with contempt of court, you do not have the authority to order apologies from people. I’m not a school boy and I won’t be spoken to in that manner. You told me to come back to this court at two o’clock today and with full respect for this court I was here at two, and then you ignored me for a period of one hour and thirty minutes, including a seven minute period when this court had no business called before it, as was apparent and abundantly clear. Now, I regard that as rudeness. You say that you dealt with affidavit matters and trivial matters. That’s not correct. You dealt with a matter at two o’clock which was part heard involving other lawyers and you continued with that matter and completed it and then proceeded to ignore me. Now I would suggest to your Worship that you become party to the inconvenience that this woman has been through if you interfere with her rights to appearances. I have a right to appear in this court.

Bench: Ms Feldman, is 20 November a suitable day for you for the continuation of this case?

Murphy: Your Worship, I’m advising this defendant to say nothing further in this matter. Now if your Worship refuses to fulfil your judicial function in accordance with my right to appear and make a submission on her behalf then I would ask you Worship not to ignore me again but make a ruling so that I may take it to the Supreme Court and have your Worship directed as that court would see fit. So, your Worship, don’t pretend for the purposes of the tape recorder that I’m not addressing you now …

Bench: Is that a suitable day sergeant, 20 November for your side of the case?

Prosecutor: Suitable for the prosecution, your Worship.

Bench: I adjourn the case to 20 November next.

Murphy: Will it be noted on the record that your Worship has refused to listen to counsel for Ms Feldman on a number of occasions this afternoon, has wrongly directed her to return to this court at two o’clock when her matter was not dealt with, has offered no explanation to her as to why it was not dealt with and now refuses to accept her attorney. Your Worship, this woman was found not guilty and you are treating her in a poor manner, I respectfully suggest, by not allowing her to be represented and by playing a game with her attorney to make me wait for an hour and a half at this bar table today, and then come up with the conclusion that you’ve come up with now, despite my numerous applications to you to be heard in relation to this.

I do note that your Worship is a magistrate who apparently on a prior occasion made a finding in my absence in the court and disqualified me from driving for a period of six months which of course was reversed on appeal in the District Court, and I think that your Worship is showing an unfortunate prejudice today. My client, who is an American citizen in this country as a guest, has wrongly been charged by police and now has been ignored in her court appearance by you, as I have been ignored, as you continue to write on papers and look the other way while I try to get some response from you.

Bench: Bail is continued I’m going to proceed to the case of Williams v Williams now.

Murphy: And I take it that your Worship, now at 3.30, now you’ve got time to deal with the matter, refuses to deal with the matter and pretends to have other business. Your Worship, if you want to deal with me and you don’t like the way I appear in this court why don’t you do something in terms of contempt. Why don’t you take your powers and use them? You’ve got powers to use, why don’t you use them? But this woman has a right of appearance and I appear by right.

Bench: I’ve adjourned the case, I’ve finished with it …

Murphy: No, no but I’m here to address you and I appear for her, you see, your Worship.

Bench: Well I’m not listening anymore, it’s time for you to leave.

Murphy: Well, is your Worship ordering me to leave court? Is your Worship scared that there’s some bridge that might be crossed here your Worship? If you would find me in contempt of the court …

Bench: Would you kindly, kindly be quiet or sit down so I can get on with this urgent custody case.

Murphy: There’s no-one in court and there’s no-one in custody for the record your Worship speaks of that …

Bench: I’m speaking about child custody.

Murphy: There’s no-one in – well there’s no …

Bench: Now, please sit down and be quiet so …

Murphy: But your Worship refuses to allow Ms Feldman to be represented by her solicitor today. Is that the correct position: Would your Worship answer me yes or no?

Bench: Are you her solicitor?

Murphy: I am her solicitor.

Bench: Yes.

Murphy: Thank you, your Worship. I will take this matter to the Supreme Court.

Bench: Williams v Williams.

Murphy: Your Worship, has bail been continued for Ms Feldman? I see your Worship doesn’t appear to be able to conduct the matter without me here to help you, because you dismissed the charge. We want to know why you are continuing the bail. Are you sure your Worship can cope with the matter in my absence?

Bench: Yes, that was wrong, there’s no question of bail.

Murphy: Yes, I thought so, your Worship. You’re not on bail, he’s made a mistake.


Act Two

The office of the Chief Magistrate of NSW complained to the Law Society about this incident.

Chief flack for the Law Society, Monsignor Back (Lib), said that he would not be able to help us with our question as to whether anything further is likely to happen.

He added that “Murphy is pretty successful”.

Magistrate D. Simpson tells us: “I don’t’ want to say anything about this.”



Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: January 30, 2010, 3:05 am

Good onyer Chris..Give em hell!