The Michigan judge who held three children in civil contempt in July and sent them to a juvenile justice facility for refusing to see their father may be facing serious professional discipline. A complaint filed against Judge Lisa Gorcyca of Oakland County says that her demeanor on the bench was “improper” and that she made misrepresentations of the law during the case.
The July incident happened during a lengthy divorce and custody battle between Omer Tsimhoni and Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, a case which has been going on for the last five years. Judge Gorcyca told the pair’s three children, then aged 15, 10, and 9, that they could all be held at a juvenile justice facility called Children’s Village for refusing to see their father.
The oldest child, a boy, told Gorcyca he didn’t wish to see his father because he’d witnessed him beating his mother. Gorcyca responded by telling the boy his father had never been charged with a crime, then strongly implied that his mother had brainwashed him:
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, your behavior back there is unlike any I’ve seen in 46,000 cases. You, young man, are the worst one.
In August, Gorcyca sought to enter the children and their father into an intensive, controversial and rare “reunification” program designed to heal their relationship, although their mother retained physical custody. The children began living with him that month, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press and based on court records.
By October, Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni was seeking to have Gorcyca removed from the case. (A report from the Free Press indicated that she was on her “15th and 16th” attorney by that time.) On Monday, a complaint was filed against Gorcyca by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, with a representative of the JTC telling U.S. News and World Report, “This is a very serious matter. This case has moved very quickly.”
The complaint, which you can read in full, accuses Gorcyca of failing to behave in a “patient, dignified and courteous manner,” says she displayed an “improper demeanor,” accuses her of use a “raised or angry voice,” and says she was sarcastic with the children and laughed at them. It also alleges that she made “significant misrepresentations of the law and fact,” by telling the trio that they’d be housed in jail cells at Children’s Village until they turned 18 and that they’d have to use the bathroom “in front of other people.”
The JTC also seems unamused that when Gorcyca referred to the Manson cult in reference to the children she made “circular motions at her right temple,” the common offensive gestural shorthand for “crazy.” In an October letter to the Commission, Gorcyca claimed that the circular motion she made “was referring to the forward movement he would make in therapy,” which the JTC decided was not true.
The complaint will be heard before the state Supreme Court. It could ultimately result in Gorcyca’s removal from office.
Judge Gorcyca on the bench in July. Photo via AP Images