‘Abusive’ judge accused of berating defendants steps down from bench

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A Broward County Circuit judge who has been accused of being verbally abusive to both defendants and attorneys has stepped down from her position.

Judge Merrilee Ehrlich has announced her resignation after accusations of verbal abuse that were so bad, Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein wrote a letter to the chief judge requesting Ehrlich be removed from the bench.

Bond court video from Sunday shows Ehrlich yelling during an encounter with 59-year-old Sandra Twiggs, who was charged with scratching an adult relative during an argument — a misdemeanor charge.

Twiggs, who had chronic lung disease and asthma and was bound to a wheelchair, had no previous criminal record.

While Ehrlich tried to make sense of Twiggs’ case, the defendant attempted to help explain.

However, Ehrlich began yelling at the woman, saying, “Excuse me, don’t say anything beyond what I am asking.”

When Twiggs began coughing, Ehrlich sounded frustrated as she asked her if she needed water.

Twiggs responded: “Yes, and my breathing treatment.”

Ehrlich responded, again yelling, “I’m not here to talk to you about your breathing treatment.”

Twiggs could be seen putting her head in her hands at one point.

7News learned that Twiggs died just two days after her court appearance.

“If somebody had done this to my mother, I don’t even know how I could contain myself,” Finkelstein said. “This is somebody’s mother. It is unacceptable.”

In his letter, Finkelsetin called Ehrlich’s behavior aggressive and tyrannical.

“This was some of the most abusive behavior I’ve ever seen a judge engage in,” Finkelstein said.

Ehrlich’s wrath was even directed at attorneys.

“First of all, attorneys, don’t interrupt the court,” Ehrlich is heard saying in court.

Another defendant, Nefertiri Tamalo, a stay-at-home single mom of a 9-month-old also was on the receiving end Sunday. Tamalo was charged with pushing and scratching her boyfriend — a misdemeanor.

“Don’t talk. You have an attorney here who’s talking for you,” Ehrlich told Tamalo, who was in tears.

Ehrlich continued to yell at Tamalo, telling her to be quiet while she wept.

“It was just how mean she was, that’s why I was crying,” Tamalo said. “I felt like she was attacking us — even with the lady with the asthma, she was yelling at the lady to ‘Shut up!'”

“This is why the public loses faith in judges and in the justice system. This is a very bad for everybody,” Finkelstein said.

Ehrlich will remain on the job until June 30th in the family division.

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