OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – A Michigan judge testified Tuesday at her disciplinary hearing that she had exhausted all other options before she found three siblings in contempt of court for refusing to have lunch with their father amid their parents' volatile divorce.
Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca is under fire from the Judicial Tenure Commission.
The Commission issued a two-count ethics complaint against Gorcyca for failing to "act in a patient, dignified, and courteous manner" during the court hearing last summer and then making false statements to the commission after its initial inquiry.
The complaint also alleges that during the court's proceedings, Gorcyca "used a raised and/or angry voice" as well as "laughed at the children and was sarcastic."
The outcome of the custody case made headlines last year when Gorcyca sent the 9-year-old, 10-year-old and 13-year-old to juvenile detention after refusing to meet with their father.
What happened in June 2015
A five-year custody battle between Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni and Omer Tsimhoni over their three children came to a bizarre conclusion when the children were found in contempt of court for refusing to have a relationship with their father.
The eldest child, 13, rebuffed the order to communicate with his father based on the accusations that his father had been violent toward his mother.
Gorcyca sentenced him to Oakland County's Children's Village detention facility for the summer, citing he was in direct contempt of the court.
During the contempt hearing, Gorcyca also told the boy she was doubtful of him having a high IQ, he had no manners, was mentally messed up, and should research Charles Manson's cult about being brainwashed.
“You had very simple choices and you’re clearly, clearly very messed up," Gorcyca said.
After the 13-year-old was taken away in handcuffs, the two younger children apologized and Gorcyca ordered them to have lunch with their father the next day.
However, the two refused the order and Gorcyca also sentenced them to detention for the summer.
"You have been brainwashed. You are brainwashed. This is not normal behavior," Gorcyca told the children.
The ordered that the children were to be separated in detention along with no visitations from their mother or family members.
Attorneys criticize, praise Gorcyca's decisions
Gorcyca's attorney, Thomas Cranmer, said Gorcyca was presiding over a case that spanned more than five years, and that it was the "worst nightmare" for any 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 and 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.
“Judge Gorcyca was presenting the children with a very clear choice, a very clear alternative, that they themselves chose. What she wanted to have happen was for the children to choose the sane, reasonable, option: just have parenting time. Go to lunch with your father," Cranmer said.
Attorney Margaret Rynier didn't agree.
“In a fit of anger, (Gorcyca) used her judicial power and the power of contempt, to intimidate, to frighten, and to incarcerate a 9, 10 and 13 year old," Rynier said. “They were not delinquents. They didn’t break the law. They didn’t commit any crimes. 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.”
Rynier accused Gorcyca of violating the children's due process rights.
"(The childrens' only) fault was that they were part of a divorce action," Rynier said.
Gorcyca withdraws from case
In December 2015, Gorcyca announced she would be withdrawing from the case after the Michigan Tenure Commission accused her of misconduct. In a four-page opinion, she insisted she had done nothing wrong in the hearing.
"The court has always maintained, and continues to maintain, that it holds no bias or prejudice for or against either party," Gorcyca said. "However, based on the recent filing of the Formal Complaint referenced above by the Judicial Tenure Commission, this court finds, based on the objective and reasonable perceptions, that its continued assignment may create an appearance of impropriety."
The proceedings for Gorcyca's case got underway last week and will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Her full response can be found below: