Monday, June 11, 2007

The Murphy File

Over the past seven months, we've been following the case of Air Force Colonel Michael Murphy, former commander of the Service's Legal Operations Agency at Bolling AFB in Washington, D.C. Murphy, who had also served two tours as an Air Force legal representative at the White House, was removed from his commander's position last fall, after it was learned that he had been disbarred in Texas and Louisiana as a civilian lawyer in the early 1980s. That action, coupled with Murphy's lack of a law license, disqualified him from service as a military attorney.

But Murphy sustained his charade for more than 20 years, rising to the rank of full Colonel and putting himself on the "fast track" in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. In addition to his White House tours--and leader of the Legal Operations Agency--Colonel Murphy also served as Commander of the Air Force JAG School at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, AL, supervising the training of future military attorneys. The irony of that assignment can't be overstated.

The Murphy scandal has become another black eye for an Air Force JAG Corps that was tarred (some would say unfairly) by the actions of its former leader, Major General Thomas Fiscus. After it was revealed that Fiscus had numerous "inappropriate" relationships with female subordinates, he was forced to retire as a Colonel in January 2005.

With the Fiscus scandal still fresh in the minds of the public (and senior DoD leaders), the Murphy situation has taken on added significance, and the Air Force has apparently spared no effort in building its file against the Colonel. As we noted a couple of weeks ago, the Commander of the Air Force District of Washington, D.C. (the convening authority for legal action in the area where Murphy served) deliberated only 24 hours before deciding to proceed with an Article 32 investigation of the charges against the former JAG. A list of those charges is provided below:

CHARGE I: Violation of UCMJ, Article 133

Specification 1: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, between on or about 31 May 2002 and on or about 30 November 2006, wrongfully and dishonorably compete for promotion within the Judge Advocate General’s Corps knowing he did not possess the required qualifications of a Judge Advocate, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification 2: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, at or near Washington D.C., between on or about 31 May 2002 and on or about 30 January 2005, wrongfully and dishonorably accept the position and perform duties as General Counsel for the White House Military Office and provide legal advice without a license, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification 3: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, at or near Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, between on or about 31 January 2005 and on or about 11 July 2005, wrongfully and dishonorably accept the position and perform duties as Commandant of the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School knowing he did not possess the required qualifications of a Judge Advocate, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification 4: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did at or near Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, between on or about 12 July 2005 and on or about 21 September 2006, wrongfully and dishonorably accept the position and perform duties as Staff Judge Advocate for Pacific Air Force and provide legal advice without a license, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification 5: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, between on or about 22 October 2006 and on or about 30 November 2006, wrongfully and dishonorably accept the position and perform duties as Commander of Air Force Legal Operations Agency knowing he did not possess the required qualifications of a Judge Advocate, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification 6: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within North America, between on or about 31 May 2002 and on or about 30 November 2006, wrongfully and dishonorably present himself publicly as a United States Air Force Judge Advocate while performing trial advocacy training knowing he did not possess the required qualifications of a Judge Advocate, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification 7: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, between on or about 31 May 2002 and on or about 30 November 2006, wrongfully and dishonorably file travel vouchers for expenses to which he was not entitled, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification 8: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 November 2006, wrongfully and dishonorably fail to notify Headquarters United States Air Force Professional Development Division of the termination of his license to practice law in the state of Louisiana, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.


Specification 9: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 November 2006, wrongfully and dishonorably fail to notify Headquarters United States Air Force Professional Development Division of the termination of his license to practice law in the state of Texas, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

Specification 10: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 November 2006, wrongfully and dishonorably fail to notify Headquarters United States Air Force Professional Development Division of the termination of his license to practice law in the United States Fifth Federal Circuit, which was conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

CHARGE II: Violation of UCMJ, Article 121

Specification 1: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, at or near Washington D.C., on divers occasions between on or about 31 May 2002 and on or about 31 January 2005, steal money, military property, of a value of more than $500, the property of the United States Air Force.

Specification 2: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, at or near Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, between on or about 5 June 2005 and on or about 15 June 2005, steal money, military property, of a value of more than $500, the property of the United States Air Force.

Specification 3: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, at or near Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, between on or about 11 August 2005 and on or about 18 August 2005, steal money, military property, of a value of more than $500, the property of the United States Air Force.

CHARGE III: Violation of UCMJ, Article 107

Specification 1: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, at or near Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, between on or about 21 August 2006 and on or about 30 November 2006, with intent to deceive, make an official statement in the Judge Advocate General’s FLITE database, to wit: that he was licensed to practice law in Louisiana and Texas, which statement was false in that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY was not then licensed to practice law in Louisiana and Texas, and was then known by the said COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY to be so false.

Specification 2: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, at or near Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, on or about 5 August 2005, with intent to deceive, make an official statement to Major General David A. Deptula, to wit: when requesting permission to teach an advocacy course at Louisiana State University School of Law, he stated “this keeps me current and fulfills my continuing legal education requirements” or words to that effect, which statement was false in that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY was not then licensed to practice law and had no continuing legal education requirements, and was then known by the said COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY to be so false.

Charge IV: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 92

Specification 1: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., who knew or should have known of his duties at or near Washington D.C., from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 January 2005, on divers occasions, was derelict in the performance of those duties in that he willfully failed to refrain from using his Blanket Travel Orders to engage in unofficial travel, as it was his duty to do.

Specification 2: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 November 2006, fail to obey a lawful general regulation, to wit: paragraph 2.1, Air Force Instruction 51-103, dated 1 March 1996, superseded by Air Force Instruction 51-103, dated 7 December 2004, by wrongfully failing to maintain compliance with the licensing requirements of a Federal court or the highest court of a U.S. state, territory or the District of Columbia such that he would then be currently eligible to engage in the active practice of law.

Specification 3: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 November 2006, fail to obey a lawful general regulation, to wit: paragraph 2.2, Air Force Instruction 51-103, dated 1 March 1996, superseded by Air Force Instruction 51-103, dated 7 December 2004, by wrongfully failing to notify Headquarters United States Air Force Professional Development Division of the termination of his license to practice law in the state of Louisiana.

Specification 4: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 November 2006, fail to obey a lawful general regulation, to wit: paragraph 2.2, Air Force Instruction 51-103, dated 1 March 1996, superseded by Air Force Instruction 51-103, dated 7 December 2004, by wrongfully failing to notify Headquarters United States Air Force Professional Development Division of the termination of his license to practice law in the state of Texas.

Specification 5: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, within the United States, from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 November 2006, fail to obey a lawful general regulation, to wit: paragraph 2.2, Air Force Instruction 51-103, dated 1 March 1996, superseded by Air Force Instruction 51-103, dated 7 December 2004, by wrongfully failing to notify Headquarters United States Air Force Professional Development Division of the termination of his license to practice law in the United States Fifth Federal Circuit.

Specification 6: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., who knew or should have known of his duties within the United States, from about 31 May 2002 to about 30 November 2006, on divers occasions, was derelict in the performance of those duties in that he willfully failed to refrain from using his Government Travel Card for other than official travel related expenses, as it was his duty to do.

Charge V: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 86

Specification: In that COLONEL MICHAEL D. MURPHY, United States Air Force, Air Force Legal Operations Agency, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington D.C., did, on or about 5 August 2006, without authority, absent himself from his place of duty at which he was required to be, to wit: Headquarters Pacific Air Force Judge Advocate’s office, located at 25 E. Street, Suite A-314, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and did remain so absent until on or about 13 August 2006.

As we noted in our last post on this saga, the accusations against Murphy seem fairly straight-forward, even to those of us who never went to law school. By competing for promotion and accepting assignments under false pretenses (he wasn't a member of the bar), Murphy stands accused of "conduct unbecoming," the so-called "catch-all" charge for personnel facing the military justice system.

Performing duties and assignments that he wasn't qualified also led to charges under Article 121 of the UCMJ (Theft of Government Money or Property, a reference to compensation he received for temporary duty assignments during his last three JAG assignments). Murphy is also accused of making false official statements (Article 107) and Dereliction of Duty (Article 92) and being Absent Without Leave, covered by Article 86 of the UCMJ.

That latter specification is in reference to a "professional education" course in Louisiana that Colonel Murphy supposedly "taught" while assigned as Judge Advocate General for Pacific Air Forces. As the specification notes, Murphy (as a disbarred lawyer) had no professional education requirements, and we believe it's unlikely that the Louisiana State University law school would invite him to teach a legal course in the same state that permanently disbarred him. If Murphy actually made the trip--as the specification suggests--it amounted to a tax-payer subsidized vacation, hence the AWOL charge.

The next step in Murphy's legal travails (the Article 32 investigation) is expected to take several months. An Article 32 is roughly the equivalent of a civilian grand jury, to determine if there's sufficient evidence to proceed with a courts-martial. That long list of charges and specifications suggest that the Air Force has plenty of evidence against Colonel Murphy, which was already developed in the initial phase of the inquiry. We're guessing that the Article 32 process will last through the summer, as investigators confirm and amplify the charges against the former JAG officer.

At this pace, the courts-martial will probably convene later this year, although potential legal maneuvering could push back the start date until early 2007. Some sort of plea deal remains possible, but the lingering "stain" of the Fiscus scandal, coupled with the list of the charges facing Colonel Murphy, make that scenario less likely. As we observed previously, Murphy's best defense may be an indictment of past Air Force procedures of certifying the professional credentials of its legal officers. Colonel Murphy served as an active duty JAG for more than 20 years, and (apparently) no one bothered to check his status with the bar until recently.

5 comments:

Storms24 said...

Has there been any clarification as to why he had been disbarred from these two states? Misconduct or simply not paying state dues or ??

Spook86 said...

Murphy was disciplined by the Texas bar for the late filing of an appeal for a client accused of burglary. Faced with the suspension of his Texas law license, Murphy applied to the Louisiana bar, swearing that he had never been disciplined by the bar association in Texas. When Louisiana learned of his past misconduct in Texas, they disbarred him permanently, as did Texas. In the meantime--before the disbarrment--Murphy applied for (and received) a commission as an Air Force JAG.

BTW, I've spoken to attorney friends (including a former JAG). They tell me that the bar (typically) doesn't suspend your license for one appeal that was filed late. Apparently, Murphy had a history of such behavior, and the late appeal in the burglary case was simply the last straw.

Trogluddite said...

Just for fun, I've calculated the max punishment based on the charge sheet you provided. Allowing f/math errors induced by the consumption of adult beverages, this max punishment would be:

* A fine,
* A reprimand,
* Total forfeiture of all pay and allowances,
* Dismissal, and
* Confinement not to exceed 59 years.


The chart won't come out in this format, but here are the numbers.

- Article 86 (AWOL) - Confinement x6 months.
- Article 92 (Failure to Obey) - Confinement x2 years
x 4 specs = 8 years 8.5 years
- Article 92 (Dereliction) - Confinement x3 months
x 2 specs = 6 months 9 years
- Article 107 (FOS) - Confinement x5years
x 2 specs = 10 years 19 years
- Article 121 (larceny) - Confinement x10 years
x 3 specs = 30 years 49 years
- Article 133 (Conduct Unbecoming) – Confinement x1year
x 10 specs 59 years

Vincent the Bedouin said...

Hey folks,
Get with the program, what Col M did (related to disbarment) was/is unethical and ilegal. However, a review of the Charge Sheet (or, Charge Shit) reveals something all-too-common of AF JAG: 'pilling on'. Better said: throw a bucket of paint against a wall and see how much sticks!
VC

Trogluddite said...

VTB,

Sorry, but you're wrong. If misconduct is not charged, it can't be discussed at court-martial. Therefore it is chareged. If charges are duplicated - I didn't see any in my very quick perusal of these charges - the prosecutors are charging in the alternative. It may mean that there is some doubt about one of the elements, so alternate charges are included. Finally, if the accused is engergetic enough to do lots of things that look like misconduct, the prosecutors are just being thorough.

I'm not claiming that all of the charges and specs will result in findings of guilty as I have no access to the evidence supporting each. Some, like the larceny (for going TDY and claiming the reimbursement) look like a reach. But the Trial Counsel have to have some evidence on each element of each spec of each charge before putting them on the charge sheet.

Cheers.