Oakland County Circuit Court
Oakland County Circuit Court | burnslaw.wordpress.com

Judge who ordered detention of three children waits on ethics verdict

Supporters of a judge facing ethics charges after ordering the detention of three children who refused to meet their father believe the worst case scenario will be a letter of reprimand.

A two-day hearing in Oakland County, Michigan, into the case of Judge Lisa Gorcyca, ended Wednesday, and a ruling is expected within a month.

The ethics charges stem from a hearing last June, when county Circuit Court Judge Gorcyca ordered the detention of the three Tsimhoni children, then aged 13, 10 and 9. They refused to go to lunch with their father, Omer.

Gorcyca, who presided over the epic custody battle for more than five years, was later hit with a two-count ethics complaint by the Judicial Tenure Commission, which accused her of failing to "act in a patient, dignified, and courteous manner," and then making false statements to the commission.

In an extraordinary hearing caught on camera, and which went viral, Gorcyca is seen berating the children after they refused to attend a two-hour lunch with their father.

“You have been brainwashed.… When you are ready to have lunch with your dad, to have dinner with your dad, to be normal human beings, I will review this… Otherwise, you are living in Children’s Village 'til you graduate high school,” Gorcyca told the children.

Further, she told the oldest child: "You need to do a research program on Charlie Manson and the cult that he has. Your behavior in the hall with me months ago, your behavior in this courtroom ... is unlike anything I've ever seen in any 46,000 cases."

After a public firestorm, the children were released two weeks later and sent to a Jewish summer camp. While at Children’s Village, they were separated, though not held in cells, but in another area, one designed for troubled children needing therapy.

Supporter Connor Ferrick, a family law lawyer in Troy, Michigan, said the judge is normally “one of the most even-tempered," and that she was “very frustrated” after dealing with a hugely difficult case for more than five years.

Gorcyca believed the children were under the tight, and unhealthy, control of their mother, who was accused by the judge of “parental alienation.” Professional therapists assigned to the case recommended the children spend time away from their mother.

“It was shocking that the tenure commission decided to bring the charges,” said Ferrick on Wednesday, after the hearing before 35th District Court Judge Daniel Ryan.

“Why it decided to in this case is very puzzling ... it should be persistent behavior, persistent overreaching. This was one ruling, and she was perfectly within the law.”

The charges could be dismissed, and Gorcyca vindicated, or she may received a letter of reprimand, a suspension or be removed from the bench. 

“I think the worst-case scenario for her is a letter of reprimand,” said Ferrick, who organized a letter of support for Gorcyca, which was signed by close to 200 lawyers. 

Tenure commission attorney Margaret Rynier told the hearing that Gorcyca, in a fit of anger, used her judicial power “to intimidate, to frighten, and to incarcerate a 9-, 10- and 13-year-old.”

“They were not delinquents. They didn’t break the law. They didn’t commit any crimes,” Rynier said. "Their parents were getting a divorce ... the only thing that they supposedly did wrong was that they did not wish to have lunch with their father.”

But Gorcyca’s lawyer, Thomas Cranmer, said the judge presided over a case that spanned more than five years, and that it was the “worst nightmare” for a judge.

“If she’s guilty of anything, she is guilty of caring too much. She’s guilty of wanting to make sure the system worked for everyone, not just the mother," Cranmer said. "They (the children) refused any attempt to have meaningful parenting time with their father."

Cranmer said Gorcyca was "stark" and "direct" in sending a message to the children of their choices, detention or the “sane, reasonable, option: just have parenting time. Go to lunch with your father.”

Gorcyca, in her testimony at the hearing, said she “never for one minute thought that any person faced with door No. 1, parenting time, and door No. 2, Children’s Village, which had been explained to them over and over again that this could happen, would pick door No. 2.”

Following the hearing last June, which led to the children being taken in handcuffs into detention, the children’s father, Omer Tsimhoni, told the New York Observer that his “ex-wife lost in court after many times she was warned.”

Tsimhoni said: “I understand everybody’s pain — the children’s pain, my pain, that the children are where they are. But she saw it coming and never tried to prevent it.”

The mother, Dr. Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, in court papers, accused her ex-husband of bullying and abusive behavior and says the children’s refusal to see their father was based on fear.

A guardian was appointed to look after the interests of the children. They have largely been in the custody of their father since last September. The custody battle continues, under a different judge.