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Judge reprimanded for berating domestic violence victim

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With Chief Justice Jorge Labarga saying such conduct "will not be tolerated," the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday publicly reprimanded a Seminole County judge who investigators said "berated and belittled" a domestic-violence victim.

Judge Jerri Collins stood quietly as Labarga read the reprimand during a session of the Supreme Court.

"Judge Collins, this is indeed a sad day for you, a sad day for the people of Florida and a sad day for the judiciary, from which our people depend for justice," Labarga said. "I cannot emphasize enough how intolerable your behavior was in this case."

The reprimand came after Collins reached an agreement with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates misconduct allegations against judges.

Along with the reprimand, the agreement also required Collins to attend courses on anger management and domestic violence.

The discipline stems from findings by an investigative panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission that Collins "berated and belittled" a domestic-violence victim who did not show up to testify at a trial.

Collins found the domestic-violence victim in contempt for failing to respond to a subpoena to testify and sentenced the woman to three days in jail.

The domestic-violence victim did not appear at a trial of the father of her child, which led to prosecutors dropping one charge and entering a plea agreement on another reduced charge, the panel said.

The victim appeared later for a hearing on the contempt issue.

"During the contempt proceedings, you were discourteous and impatient toward the distraught victim," Labarga said to Collins on Tuesday. "The victim apologized for failing to appear, citing anxiety, depression and a desire to move on from contact with her abuser as a reason why she did not appear for trial. Meanwhile, Judge Collins, you raised your voice, used sarcasm, spoke harshly and interrupted the victim."