The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca not be suspended and instead only publicly censured for misconduct during a 2015 controversial child custody case.
The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) ruled in July 2016 that Gorcyca engaged in "inappropriate demeanor on the bench" and "failed to act in a patient, dignified and judicial manner by making disparaging comments to the children." The ruling said that she abused her judicial power in a decision to hold three siblings in contempt of court for refusing to have lunch with their father amid their parents' volatile divorce.
The JTC recommended Gorcyca be suspended 30 days for misconduct on the bench. However, after reviewing the case the Supreme Court decided not to suspend Gorcyca and instead only to issue a public censure.
From the Supreme Court's ruling:
"(Gorcyca) exhibited a lack of judicial temperament during the proceedings in open court when she directed at the three children and their mother language that was insulting, demeaning, and humiliating. Respondent also committed legal error by holding the children in contempt, ordering them to be confined at the Oakland County Children’s Village, and leaving in the hands of their father, who was soon to be out of the United States, the ability of the children to purge themselves of civil contempt. But that decision did not constitute a “willful failure to observe the law,” which would merit a finding of judicial misconduct. In sum, we agree in part with the Commission’s conclusion that respondent committed judicial misconduct, and we hold that public censure is proportionate to the judicial misconduct established by the record. We also reject the Commission’s recommendation that costs, fees, and expenses be imposed against respondent under MCR 9.205(B)."
Here is the full Supreme Court ruling:
The 2015 custody case
The outcome of the custody case made headlines in 2015 when Gorcyca sent a 9-year-old, 10-year-old and 13-year-old to juvenile detention after they refused to meet with their father.
The five-year custody battle between the children's parents -- Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni and Omer Tsimhoni -- took a bizarre turn when the eldest child refused 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, saying that he was in direct contempt of the court.
During the contempt hearing, Gorcyca also told the boy that she was doubtful that he has a high IQ, he had no manners, was mentally messed up and should research Charles Manson's cult to learn about brainwashing.
"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.
She ordered that the children be separated in detention along with no visitation from their mother or other family members.