Video: Florida judge berates woman in wheelchair who dies days later

  • Print.

Judge Merillee Ehrlich/17th Judicial Circuit of Florida.

A Florida judge has been banned from the bench in advance of her planned June 30 retirement after berating a woman struggling to breathe while in a wheelchair.

The woman, 59-year-old Sandra Twiggs, died three days later, report the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, CBS News, Law.com and JAAB Blog.

Chief Judge Jack Tuter of Broward County said Saturday that Judge Merrilee Ehrlich had planned to retire before the incident, and he is telling her not to return to the courthouse. He also said he planned to contact the woman’s family to apologize.

The Herald describes Ehrlich’s behavior as “a blistering, arm-waving, face-palming, tongue-lashing.”

A video of Ehrlich shows her erupting in anger as Twiggs tries to answer her questions. Twiggs was accused of scratching her 19-year-old daughter in an argument over a fan.

“You’ve already said too much,” Ehrlich yelled at one point during the April 15 hearing. “Listen to me!”

At another point, Twiggs began to explain that she needed breathing treatments. “I’m not here to talk about your breathing treatment!” Ehrlich snapped.

The judge also shows impatience in a hearing that followed, telling a sobbing woman, “Don’t talk! You have an attorney here talking for you!”

Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein wrote to the chief judge saying that Ehrlich had “demonstrated aggressive and tyrannical behavior and revealed her lack of emotional fitness to sit on the bench.” He also said Ehrlich’s behavior was shocking, and an embarrassment to Broward County.”

Twiggs’ goddaughter, Carolyn Porter, told the Sun Sentinel that Twiggs had tried to explain how Ehrlich treated her, “but she had anxiety, and every time she tried to talk about it, she couldn’t breathe.”

Twiggs died last Wednesday.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.