Judge Gorcyca guilty of misconduct in custody case
Pontiac — A custody case that made international news, prompted social media threats and support petitions by dozens of defense attorneys, has led to the rare finding that an Oakland judge overstepped her authority in sending three children to a county facility for refusing to have lunch with their father.
In a 34-page ruling released Friday by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, Circuit Judge Lisa Gorcyca was found to have acted inappropriately in the custody case involving the Bloomfield Hills children, aged 14, 11 and 9, and also made false representations in writing to the nine-member commission.
Omer Tsimhoni had sought the court’s help alleging his ex-wife, Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, had turned the children against him. After five years and more than 100 pleadings, including several involving parental alienation, Gorcyca said she acted out of frustration when she held the children in contempt of court.
What penalty Gorcyca may receive — if any — must still be determined, and that is months away, according to Tenure Commission Executive Paul J. Fischer.
“Other steps still need to be taken,” said Fischer, who declined to discuss elements of the finding or hearing.
He did confirm the findings of the Special Master — retired Wayne Circuit Judge Daniel Ryan — do not include recommendations of punishment. That will come in September, according to Fischer, when the nine-member Tenure Commission will meet. Should they agree with Ryan’s findings, they could decide punishment and send a recommendation to the Michigan Supreme Court, which will make the ultimate decision.
The State Supreme Court could reject the recommendation or make its own determination.
Gorcyca, who stepped down from the case in January, can remain on the bench until then. She could not be reached for comment Friday. Her attorney, Thomas W. Cranmer, issued a brief statement Friday.
“While we respect the process, we were both surprised and disappointed with the Master’s Report,” he said. “We believe that both the facts and the law support Judge Gorcyca’s position. At this point, we are looking forward to addressing our arguments to the Judicial Tenure Commission itself and, ultimately, the Michigan Supreme Court, if necessary.”
Wilson Tanner III, an attorney for Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, offered only seven words of response: “I think the Master did his job.”
Ryan’s ruling, in part, said Gorcyca “failed to establish, maintain, enforce, and personally observe high standards of conduct to that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved.”
Gorcyca is accused of inappropriate behavior on the bench, laughing at the children in court, comparing them to engaging in cult-like activity and, at one point, spinning a pointed finger in circles towards her own head, implying the children’s behavior was mentally unbalanced.
Gorcyca has denied any wrongdoing and nearly 200 lawyers have signed a letter supporting her. Cranmer indicated there will likely be an appeal of the finding. Gorcyca’s attorneys are expected to argue the hearing did not support Ryan’s findings or there has been a misapplication of the law.
The Tenure Commission receives about 600 grievances against the state’s judges every year, Fischer said, and about only two end up with formal complaints.
The children had been in the sole custody of their mother but their estranged father had sought the court’s help, seeking sole custody and claiming his ex-wife had turned them against him. There were more than 40 hearings held and more than 100 pleadings filed in the case over five years, including multiple claims of parental alienation. Gorcyca issued a gag order after threats were made on social media toward unnamed people in the case.
Meanwhile the children underwent clinical examinations and supervised parenting time by seven therapists. The parents went through 20 attorneys — 16 by the mother and four by the father.
Gorcyca had ordered the children to have a relationship with their father beginning in August 2014 prompting them to link their arms together in a jury room and refuse to get out of their chairs. They eventually agreed to meet with their father under threat of going to Children’s Village.
Later, when the three repeatedly refused to eat lunch, talk to or even look at Omer Tsimhoni, Gorcyca sent them to Mandy’s Place, a division of the Children’s Village for neglected or abused children. She later transferred them to a summer camp and then to intensive therapy followed by transferring custody to the father.
They have since been returned to their mother’s care and are seeing their father. The children’s parents are reportedly working on an out-of-court settlement involving custody.
Gorcyca said her decision to place the children in Mandy’s Place was not made lightly but resulted from “years of frustration” with the children’s mother flouting court orders to unite the kids with their father while they also had a relationship with their mother.
The next tenure commission hearing is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 12.