Ex-judicial prosecutor claims firing was over Gorcyca

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The former executive director and general counsel for the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission is suing the state and the commission alleging it retaliated against him by firing him after he recommended a nine-month unpaid suspension for Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca.

Paul J. Fischer filed a lawsuit earlier this month in Wayne County Circuit Court alleging the commission allowed recused commissioners to participate and influence the deliberation process in the Gorcyca matter, which centered on her conduct during a hotly contested child custody case.

Fischer said he engaged in protected action when he brought charges against Gorcyca, rejected the commissions “construct” of “Gorcyca as a good judge who made a mistake” and recommended punishment that was appropriate in the case.

The nine-member commission fired Fischer on Sept. 16 after he refused to resign, the lawsuit says.

On Nov. 14, the commission — without Fischer on staff — recommended a less severe, 30-day unpaid suspension and public censure for Gorcyca.

It also wants to fine her $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.” Fischer also wanted the same fine issued. The Michigan Supreme Court will ultimately decide on a fine for Gorcyca, who also hasn’t been suspended or censured.

Gorcyca 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.

Michigan Supreme Court spokesman John Nevin said the court wouldn’t comment on the matter. Anna Heaton, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, also declined, saying: “We don’t have a comment on this pending litigation.” The chair of the Judicial Tenure Commission, Judge David Sawyer, was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Fischer alleges three of the commission members recused themselves from the case, but one of them sought him out to discuss the Gorcyca matter, saying “a public censure was the most severe sanction that a judge should face” and that commissioner had spoken to Gorcyca about it.

Fischer said he told another commissioner, one who had not been recused from the case, that the “JTC had to stop treating the Gorcyca matter differently than it treated other cases; that the commission should let the process run its regular course” and “the JTC should stop talking about the case especially when the recused members were present.”

He again told the commissioners they must stop communications with recused commissioners who also sat in on executive sessions in the matter after they were recused.

The lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in damages.