Lawyers back Oakland circuit judge as hearing to start

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Troy — As an Oakland Circuit judge faces potential disciplinary action for her handling of a contentious child custody case about 200 Metro Detroit attorneys are coming to her defense.

Judge Lisa Gorcyca is set to go before a Judicial Tenure Commission hearing Tuesday in 35th District Court in Plymouth on a formal complaint regarding her actions during the Tsimhoni family custody case.

But attorneys such as Connor Ferrick feel Gorcyca has been done an injustice. Ferrick organized a letter of support that has been signed “by more than 175 lawyers and counting” who work in family court matters, she said.

“The related media coverage has been a growing frustration among Oakland County family law practitioners,” Ferrick said. “The facts of the Tsimhoni case itself have been skewed, and the judge’s record of protecting children, courtroom patience, thoughtful deliberation, and community service have been completely overshadowed by this now suspect prosecution by Mr. Fischer in behalf of the Judicial Tenure Commission.”

Ferrick was referring to Paul Fischer, executive director of the commission, whom Gorcyca sought to have disqualified from her case Friday due to an alleged conflict of interest by him and his staff, including attorney Margaret Rynier. Former Wayne Circuit Judge Daniel Ryan, who is presiding over Gorcyca’s hearing, denied her motion Friday.

Ferrick, who said several attorneys were expected to attend the hearing this week to show support for Gorcyca, said the letter will be submitted to the commission, but not directly to Fischer.

In a letter titled “We Support Judge Lisa Gorcyca,” the attorneys say “she has had unwavering compassion for the people who have appeared before her, especially for those most vulnerable in our community, and she has shown a deep dedication to children.” They go on to write that Gorcyca “is always respectful of attorneys and litigants” and her “judicial demeanor and temperament are above reproach.”

This is a second letter of support from attorneys after the formal complaint against Gorcyca by the Tenure Commission. In January, another group gathered signatures of 50 area attorneys, likewise upset over what they said amounted to unfair criticism of Gorcyca, who recused herself from the case two weeks after the formal complaint.

The Tenure Commission, which investigates alleged judicial misconduct, wrote a formal complaint on Gorcyca on Dec. 14. If allegations are substantiated in such hearings, it can lead to disciplinary action against Gorcyca.

Gorcyca, a former assistant prosecuting attorney who has been on the bench for eight years, has denied her actions amounted to judicial misconduct.

The Tsimhonis of Bloomfield Hills divorced in 2011 and the mother, Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, was initially awarded full custody and the father, Omer Tsimhoni, visitation privileges. But when the children would have nothing to do with their father he complained his ex-wife had turned them against him and sought full custody.

Gorcyca made international news after she ordered the two brothers, aged 14 and 11, and their 9-year-old sister, into Children’s Village county detention facility for disobeying her orders to have a relationship with their father.

Contrary to perception that the children were “jailed” with young criminals, they were housed in a separate section called Maya’s Place away from juvenile offenders. Later they were transferred to a summer camp and ordered into custody of their father during an intensive program designed to reunite parents and children.

Between November 2011 and July 2015, the court entered over 30 orders regarding issues of parenting time and other disputes in the relationship.

Gorcyca drew fire for describing the children as engaging in cult-like activity, refusing to eat, talk or even look at their father. She was also criticized for scolding them and laughing in court and making a circular motion with her finger alongside her head which their mother contended referred to the childrens’ state of mind.

The children, on advice of several professionals in the case, were ordered removed from their mother’s custody for several months. They are now splitting time with each of their divorced parents, pending a hearing to determine if custody will be changed.

(248) 338-0319