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Commission: Oakland Co. judge should be suspended

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission is recommending a 30-day unpaid suspension and public censure for Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca for her conduct in a hotly contested child custody case.

The commission also wants to fine the Oakland Circuit Court judge $12,553.73, saying her response to a complaint against her was “misleading” and forced the tenure commission to perform an evidentiary hearing to “uncover the facts.”

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether to impose the punishment, censure and fine against Gorcyca who made national headlines in 2015 when she sent three children to a county juvenile facility for refusing to have lunch with their father.

In July, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission found Gorcyca guilty of misconduct for acting inappropriately in the custody case involving the Bloomfield Hills children, aged 14, 11 and 9 at the time.

The tenure commission said the Oakland County judge overstepped her authority in sending three children to Children’s Village, which is normally reserved for abused children, for two weeks. She later had them transferred to a summer camp.

The children’s father, 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.

Gorcyca had ordered the children to have a relationship with their father beginning in August 2014. Tsimhoni had been granted visitation privileges in the divorce but sought help from Gorcyca.

Gorcyca’s attorney, Thomas Cranmer, has maintained the judge neither acted inappropriately nor abused her discretion in how she handled the case.

Cranmer was not immediately available for comment on Monday.

In its order and recommendation for discipline, the tenure commission said Gorcyca’s responses to the complaint may have been inaccurate and “somewhat misleading,” but she did not make intentionally false statements in her answer to the formal complaint or during her testimony at the public hearing.

The commission said contempt is among the most powerful tools available to a judge and generally is used as a last resort.

“Her misconduct was using the awesome judicial power of contempt to vent her frustration on three children because she wanted them to have a better relationship with their father,” the order says. “Her ... language was not only counterproductive in accomplishing what she wanted; it may well have been misconduct against the adults.”

But Gorcyca was “targeting children” who found themselves in the middle of a protracted legal controversy that was not of their own making, said the tenure commission.

Gorcyca’s actions from the bench were unacceptable, the tenure commission order added, “for it strikes at the heart of the proper role of a judge when dealing with children: to be a safe haven and refuge rather than a bully.”

The outcry over Gorcyca’s actions, fueled by social media chatter, made international news and heated up arguments over the rights of children involved in divorce proceedings.

Gorcyca has the opportunity to appeal directly to the state Supreme Court.

Gorcyca, who has since recused herself from the Tsimhoni case, continues to sit on the bench and hear cases. She was elected to the bench in 2008.