Judge won’t quit custody case; hearing resumes Tuesday

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An Oakland Circuit judge is to begin hearing evidence Tuesday in a contentious high-profile custody case, one day after she refused to disqualify herself from the matter.

Attorneys for Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni asked Judge Lisa Gorcyca to disqualify herself from the case, alleging she has displayed bias against their client and made rulings in favor of her ex-husband, Omer Tsimhoni.

The couple divorced in August 2011 and have been battling over visitation and custody of their 14- and 11-year-old sons and 9-year-old daughter.

Gorcyca made international news after she placed the children in a county-operated juvenile facility for repeatedly ignoring her orders to have a relationship with their father during his visits. Instead, they refused to eat with, talk or even look at him. Under Gorcyca’s orders they are living with him — with no contact with their mother — after attending a five-day parental alienation treatment program.

As part of the program’s protocol, the children were to spend another 90 days with their father and undergo mental health treatment with no contact with their mother.

“The court is not biased for or against either party,” Gorcyca concluded in an 18-page opinion released Monday.

Gorcyca’s opinion addressed allegations by the mother’s attorney, saying they “failed to meet her (mother’s) burden and to overcome the heavy presumption of judicial impartiality.”

It is not known if attorneys will appeal Gorcyca’s opinion. Several weeks ago, Gorcyca placed a gag order on all parties from discussing the case.

Legal filings escalated when Omer Tsimhoni, an automotive engineer who works most of the year in Israel, complained to Gorcyca his visitation with the children had become increasingly difficult. The children lived with their mother in Bloomfield Hills and Tsimhoni said he believed his ex-wife had turned them against him.

The mother countered that the children were fearful of their father because he had displayed violent behavior, including striking her, and she feared he planned to take them to Israel to live. Gorcyca told the children there was no evidence of either concern and their father, since remarried, wanted to have a loving relationship with them.

Gorcyca had said the Tsimhoni case “tied for my worst parental alienation case,” likened some behavior to “Charles Manson and the cult that he has” and expressed a belief that the children had been “brainwashed.”

Gorcyca’s opinion stated the disqualification motion contained several deficiencies, including unproven allegations of biased statements.