Judge Gorcyca, an Oakland County, Michigan Circuit Court Judge who has recently been put on the hit list for the way she handled a fiercely controversial custody case last year, has spoken out against the Judicial Tenure Committee (JTC) that is supposed to be impartially reviewing her conduct.
The case began in 2014 when Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni and Omer Tsimhoni divorced. Custody of their three children, aged 14, 11 and 9, was given to Maya with visitation being granted to Omer. But the children refused to have anything to do with their father, and the case ended up back in court.
During a later hearing, Judge Gorcyca compared the children to Charles Manson’s followers, implying that they were brainwashed, and circled her finger next to her head, which the full courtroom understood to mean that she thought they were crazy. She also found them in contempt of court for refusing to have lunch with their father in the courthouse cafeteria, and had the children escorted from the court in handcuffs.
The Michigan parenting time case itself was enormously controversial, netting media coverage all over the country. The resulting media frenzy was only enhanced by the presiding judge’s actions in court. Once the Judicial Tenure Committee got wind of what had taken place, an investigation was opened into the matter. But while Judge Gorcyca’s actions may not have been prudent, the JTC claims that she lied to their investigators not once, but twice during the course of the investigation, prompting a disciplinary hearing.
According to a request that Judge Gorcyca filed with the Judicial Tenure Committee, she wants the commission’s executive director, Paul J. Fischer, along with his staff, to be disqualified from prosecuting her particular case. The reasons she provided were numerous and according to her attorney, reveal prejudicial conduct that would result in her not receiving a fair hearing.
The Judge believes that she won’t get a fair hearing
Among the most prominent reasons for Judge Gorcyca’s claim is the fact that Fischer and one of his employees, Margaret Rynier, have openly questioned the ruling she made in the case. She also says that they circumvented her, contacting the attorneys involved directly in order to “effect oversight of the custody arrangement.”
Other reasons cited by the Oakland County Family Court judge include Fischer contacting one of the guardians-ad-litem to inquire about the children’s wellbeing, and also inquired as to why Gorcyca had not recused herself from the case. She also claims that Rynier, Fischer’s employee, contacted the attorney for the children’s father in an attempt to interview the oldest son, and later attempted to call at least three witnesses regarding the ethnicity and religion of both the children and Gorcyca.
The Commission, which is charged with investigating alleged judicial misconduct by Michigan’s judges, is scheduled to hear testimony pertaining to how Gorcyca handled the Tsimhoni custody case on May 31, 2016. The results of the hearing will reveal whether Judge Gorcyca remains on the bench in the Oakland County Circuit Court for much longer, or not. In either event, the judge has decided to not run for re-election despite having enormous support from the family law attorneys in Metro Detroit.
Today a coalition of family law attorneys that practice in front of Judge Gorcyca began circulating a letter of support for her. It had been signed by many well respected Oakland County family law attorneys. It also ask for other prominent Oakland County attorneys to add their names to the letter of support. The letter essentially says that the judge has done an exemplary job throughout her entire legal career as a judge and even before she became a judge.
Our own managing partner Charles Kronzek agrees that this judge has normally done an admirable job over the years but this particular case was not a shining example of Judge Gorcyca’s best decision making. It was a difficult and highly contentious case full of drama. We’ve all made mistakes and she’s paying dearly for her handling of this case.