The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission heard more than 90 minutes of arguments today in the case of Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca, with her lawyer arguing that Gorcyca was frustrated with a bitter child custody case that had dragged on for more than 5 years, but she didn't commit judicial misconduct.
"There is no evidence that Judge Gorcyca violated the rules of judicial conduct," attorney Thomas Cranmer told the commission. "If Judge Gorcyca made a mistake in her finding of judicial contempt, that is not judicial misconduct."
Glenn Page, acting director of the tenure commission who argued against Gorcyca, disagreed, saying she misused her power of contempt by locking up the children in the custody dispute and not going after the parents.
"She allowed her anger and her frustrations to take over," Page said. "Her conduct requires a severe sanction and the commission should recommend to the Supreme Court a severe sanction."
The commission will rule at a later date. Gorcyca was widely criticized for ordering the three children, ages, 9, 10, and 13, to spend 17 days in a juvenile detention facility for ignoring her order to spend time with their father.
"The commission will take this under advisement," Commission chairman Judge David Sawayer said at the end of the hearing. "This is a difficult case. Let me assure both of you that we take these arguments very seriously."
Commissioners must decide whether to accept, reject or modify a July finding of misconduct against Gorcyca, who presided for more than five years over the custody case involving Omer Tsimhoni and his ex-wife, Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni.
Advocates for the parenting rights of fathers backed 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.
In July 2015, Gorcyca ordered the children to have lunch with their father as part of his parenting time. When the children repeatedly refused to spend time with him, Gorcyca held them in contempt of court and ordered them held in Oakland County's Children's Village, a youth home, where they spent about two weeks before she relented and let them attend summer camp.
Last year, the Michigan Supreme Court appointed retired Wayne County Circuit Judge Daniel Ryan to review Gorcyca's conduct. In July, Ryan found Gorcyca:
- Abused her contempt power
- Acted inappropriately on the bench
- Failed to act in a patient, dignified, judicial manner
If commissioners agree with the finding of misconduct, they could forward them to the Michigan Supreme Court for punishment, though Gorcyca would have the opportunity to make her case directly to the Supreme Court as well.
The hearing was held in a 14th-floor courtroom of the Michigan Court of Appeals inside Cadillac Place, the former General Motors headquarters on West Grand Boulevard.
About 20 people attended the hearing, including Gorcyca's husband, former Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca, Oakland County Judge Fred Mester, as well as Macomb County Circuit Judge Tracey Jokich, Troy District Judge Kirsten Nielsen Hartig and attorney Keri Middleditch, who represented Omer Tsimhoni in Gorcyca's courtroom.
Many lawyers and fellow judges have rallied to Gorcyca's defense, even packing her courtroom in July to pay tribute to her for service on the bench, especially in contentious matters like the Tsimhoni case.
Adding to the intrigue of the case, is a decision by the Judicial Tenure Commission last month to remove its long-time executive director Paul Fischer, who had led the case against Gorcyca. The removal came in the wake of a recent Michigan Supreme Court initiative to exercise tighter control of the Judicial Tenure Commission and its staff.