Gorcyca appoints disgraced lawyer to handle custody matter

Despite a history of incompetence as a court appointed attorney, Judge Lisa Gorcyca still appointed Debra McKelvey on two occasions to handle issues in Debra Flowers' divorce.


WASHINGTON, February 3, 2016 – On two separate custody matters, Gorcyca appointed Debra McKelvey to represent Debra Flowers on custody cases. Gorcyca sent Flowers to prison in both instances after she named McKelvey as the court-appointed attorney for Flowers.

Debra Flowers has been involved in custody litigation in front of Judge Lisa Gorcyca for several years. Gorcyca has sentenced Flowers to jail six times for matters dealing with custody issues; she will begin serving her sixth jail term later in February.

Gorcyca also twice named McKelvey as Flowers’ court-appointed attorney, once in January 2015 and once in December 2015.

The judge appointed McKelvey to that role despite the fact that the Michigan Supreme court had reprimanded McKelvey. The Court found that egregious behavior by McKelvey led directly to the false conviction of her then client, Jakob Trakhtenberg, for sexually assaulting his daughter. The accusation was made by his ex-wife.

In the case, McKelvey accepted a bench trial rather than a jury trial, did not present an opening statement, called only Trakhtenberg as a witness, and failed to present evidence that Trakhtenberg’s ex-wife had previously been found to falsely accuse another individual of sexual abuse.

The entire trial lasted less than an hour.

In October 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court said McKelvy’s “performance in this case was constitutionally inadequate and rendered defendant’s trial unfair and unreliable.”

“You don’t see that language very often, but it’s not surprising if the facts support it,” said John Cote, a Holland, Michigan, lawyer who specializes in attorney misconduct cases, in a USA Today for a story about the case. “It’s fairly rare for the Supreme Court to chastise an attorney to that extent.”


Judge Gorcyca jailed woman with stage three cancer

McKelvey was sued by Traktenberg, and a jury awarded him $500,000 in June 2014.

Despite that notoriety, Gorcyca appointed McKelvey to act as the attorney for Flowers. In the January 2015 hearing, Flowers admitted to having several drinks of alcohol before coming to court. The Judge sentenced Flowers to 60 days in prison for violating a previous order against drinking alcohol.

Gorcyca also cut off all contact between Flowers and her son after this hearing and mandated that Flowers wear an ankle monitor that senses any alcohol consumption.

Flowers has not been allowed any contact with her son since that time.

Gorcyca again appointed McKelvey to represent Flowers during a December 2015 hearing in which Flowers plead no contest to charges of criminal contempt.

According to Flowers, she was confused and felt threatened when made the plea.

In January 2016, Flowers said Gorcyca sentenced her to up to 90 days in prison, starting February 11.

Flowers said she found out about McKelvey’s history after the court hearing in December 2015.

Flowers is attempting to halt her prison stay by filing a motion to reconsider. She told CDN that part of the rationale for the motion is due to ineffective counsel. However, she said is finding it impossible to file the motion due to other restrictions placed on her by Gorcyca.

Gorcyca has ordered that she pay $3,000 along with any motion she files. That amount is prohibitive to Flowers.

Flowers said Gorcyca placed this restriction on her after she missed a 2014 court date. Flowers said she erroneously wrote down the wrong date for that hearing..

This will be Flowers’ sixth jail stint imposed by Gorcyca during the course of divorce litigation, including one stint while Flowers was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. Ironically,  Judge Gorcyca was also treated for breast cancer in 2011.

Gorcyca has come under fire for her handling of another custody case, involving the Tsimhoni family. The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has filed a formal complaint against Gorcyca in that case.

CDN has also investigated Gorcyca’s handling of Jannell Eagan case.

Calls to Judge Gorcyca’s chambers, Abbatt’s law office, and to McKelvey’s law office were left unreturned.

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