CHICAGO, July 1, 2016 – A controversial Michigan family court judge has been found to have abused her power on the bench.
The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has found that Judge Lisa Gorcyca abused her contempt of court power when she sentence three children from the Tsimhoni family to juvenile hall for contempt of court after they refused to have lunch with their father.
All three stated repeatedly that their father was an abuser, a charge their father, Omer Tsimhoni, denied. Tsimhoni instead claimed his ex-wife was alienating him from his children.
The MJTC initially filed a complaint in December 2015 against Gorcyca. A special master, retired Judge Daniel Ryan, heard the case in June 2016.
After the hearing, Ryan found Gorcyca had violated judicial code of conduct by inappropriate conduct in the court room.
Judge Gorcyca testified that she does not insult those who come before the court, however, the Master finds that some of Judge Gorcyca’s comments and gestures made to LT on the record were beyond stern language, were contrary to the code of Judicial Conduct and clearly demeaning and insulting. Degrading comments that she doubted LT had a high IQ and making the “crazy” gesture while telling him that when “he’s no longer like Charlie Manson’s cult” transcend the bounds of stern language and acceptable judicial behavior, violating the code.
Ryan also Judge Gorcyca violated the three children’s due process because she found them guilty of contempt of court even though there was no order for them to spend time with their father,
Despite the absence of a court order for LT to have parenting time with Defendant father on June 24 and without any further inquiry, Judge Gorcyca found LT in direct civil contempt, stating, “The court finds you in direct contempt. I ordered you to have a healthy relationship with your father….I ordered you to talk to your father. You chose not to talk to your father. You defied a direct court order. It’s a direct contempt so I’m finding you guilty of civil contempt.”
But, there was no such order for June 24 regarding LT, and any contempt such as refusing to talk to his father outside the court’s immediate presence would have been indirect and not direct contempt. According to the express language of Gorcyca’s June 23 order, LT was not scheduled for parenting time until July 14 and had only accompanied his mother to court when she brought the two younger siblings RT and NT.
The Master recognizes that it is irrelevant whether Gorcyca correctly understood or employed civil or criminal contempt or whether it was direct or indirect contempt. The point is that Gorcyca improperly utilized her contempt power and found LT in contempt on June 24, depriving him of his liberty, and having him held in custody until July 10 for doing something she had not ordered LT to do in the June 23 order.
“It is a disciplinary action which stands for the singular proposition that if a judge is going to use the inherent power of contempt, the ultimate “tool in the tool box” after years of “frustration,” the judge may wish to consult the owner’s manual to make sure that she or he are using the tool properly before employing one of the 34 penultimate tools of inherent judicial power, a contempt finding, to deprive any individual, or children in this case, of their liberty,” Ryan concluded, scolding Gorcyca for misusing the contempt power.
Gorcyca left the Tsimhoni case in December, ruling that the complaint filed earlier that month by the MJTC created the appearance of impropriety.
After her departure, the Tsimhonis reached an agreement reverting physical custody of the children to the mother, Maya Tsimhoni. Gorcyca had not only removed custody from Maya Tsimhoni, but she had also forbidden her from any contact with any of the children for more than six months.
Gorcyca’s fate will now go in front of the Michigan Supreme Court, which can choose from a range of punishments, from censure to removal from office.