Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca should be publicly censured and suspended 30 days without pay for her misconduct in a controversial child custody case, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission said today.
The seven-member commission made the recommendation to the Michigan Supreme Court, which can accept or reject it before determining what, if any, discipline Gorcyca should face.
Gorcyca's lawyer, Thomas Cranmer, declined to comment Monday but told the Free Press earlier this year that the judge was prepared to fight a finding of misconduct before the tenure commission and before the Supreme Court, if necessary.
Glenn Page, the commission interim executive director and general counsel who is prosecuting the case against Gorcyca, had urged a 9-month suspension, saying Gorcyca lied in responses to questions about the case.
The commission concluded that Gorcyca's answers "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."
Judges make $139,919 a year, so a 30-day suspension would cost Gorcyca about $11,660 in lost salary. The commission also recommended Gorcyca pay $12,553 in fines and costs.
In July, retired Wayne County Circuit Judge Daniel Ryan, a fact-finder appointed by the Supreme Court, concluded that Gorcyca had committed judicial misconduct in the way she handled the heated case.
In June 2015, Gorcyca sent three children, ages 9, 10 and 13, to a juvenile detention facility for 17 days for ignoring her order to visit their father. During a June 24, 2015, hearing, Gorcyca compared one child's actions to those of cult leader Charles Manson and made a circular motion with her finger near her ear as she said it.
The commission concluded that "the judge crossed the line from proper demeanor to caustic abuse " and abused her contempt power.
Gorcyca's "insulting and demeaning language and subsequent finding of contempt were not only abusive but directed at children, rather than at a trained, albeit inexperienced, attorney," the commission said.
The commission did note Gorcyca's otherwise exemplary record without which "the commission might be inclined to recommend a lengthier sanction for misconduct in this case."
At a hearing last month, Cranmer argued that Gorcyca may have grown frustrated with the case, which lasted more than five years, but that she committed no misconduct.
"There is no evidence that Judge Gorcyca violated the rules of judicial conduct," Cranmer told the commission. "This is a one-time occurrence. If we're going to judge judges by their worst day, you folks are going to be awfully busy."
Page disagreed, arguing that Gorcyca let her emotions take over and punished the children instead of the parents.
"I don't believe you can look at the video of that June 24 hearing and say this is acceptable behavior by a judge, that a judge can treat children in this manner," Page said at the time.
At the hearing, commission Chairman Judge David Sawyer acknowledged that the case Gorcyca was presiding over was difficult. It involved Omer Tsimhoni and his ex-wife, Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, and drew national attention with advocates for the parenting rights of fathers backing Tsimhoni, arguing his was a textbook case of parental alienation. Other interest groups sided with Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, saying that children can't be ordered to love someone they don't.
The case included so many court hearings that a register to log them all runs 55 pages, Cranmer said. Eibschitz-Tsimhoni is now on her 16th lawyer and Tsimhoni has had at least four. At one point, the children sat in chairs in the hallway with their arms locked together, refusing to enter the courtroom.
"This case is every judge's nightmare," Cranmer said. "This was five years of the most contentious, vexatious litigation imaginable."
Page acknowledged it was a difficult case but said Gorcyca shouldn't have found the children in contempt of court and ordered them to juvenile detention.
"They were taken away from their home, they were put in Children's Village for 17 days. Mom can't visit and Dad's out of the country," Page said. "There is evidence to show this. You can watch it. You can see, what she does and what she says."
Contact John Wisely: 313-222-6825, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @jwisely
Detroit Free Press