I have written previously about Seminole County Judge Jerri Collins who, in July, sentenced a domestic violence victim to jail because she did not appear in court to testify against Miles Brennan, the father of her 1-year-old child. The Florida Supreme court has suggested that Judge Collins take an anger-management course.1
The woman had told deputies that Brennan choked her, chased her with a knife, and pressed his thumbs against her eyes. However, prosecutors could not prove their case without the woman’s testimony, and agreed to drop a charge accusing Brennan of being armed with a knife. He was sentenced to sixteen days in jail on a battery charge.
The woman told Collins she had been dealing with anxiety and depression since the attack. “You think you’re going to have anxiety now? You haven’t even seen anxiety,” Collins said. “You disobeyed a court order knowing that this wasn’t going to turn out well for the State.” The woman did not have a lawyer to represent her during the six minute direct criminal contempt proceeding, which ended with the woman being sentenced to jail for three days. Interestingly, Collins had the legal right to send the woman to jail. The Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission Investigative Panel found that Judge Collins broke a judicial code of conduct that required judges to be patient and courteous with people in the court room. “Your aggressive and discourteous treatment of a victim of domestic violence abuse for failing to appear for a criminal prosecution was inappropriate,” Panel members wrote in March.
The continuing story of Judge Jerri Collins and her treatment of this domestic violence victim brings to the forefront the importance of judicial demeanor in family law and criminal matters.
1 Lotan, G. April 26, 2016. “Seminole Judge Jerri Collins told to take anger-management course” Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved from: http://www.orlandosentinel.com