CHICAGO, Dec. 16, 2015 – The judge at the center of an Oakland County, Michigan, custody case is now the subject of a formal complaint from Michigan’s judicial governing body.
On Monday the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission filed a formal complaint against Judge Lisa Gorcyca for her handling of the custody case between Omer Tsimhoni and Maya Elibshitz-Tsimhoni.
Investigators for the Tenure Commission accused Gorcyca of ridiculing the children at the center of the custody case in open court. Furthermore, she exaggerated the legal punishment they could be subjected to for failing to engage with their father and, in general, scaring the children to the point they were visibly upset.
The complaint alleges that Gorcyca had a sheriff’s deputy handcuff the children in open court and laughed at them even as the youngest wept and trembled with fear.
That case first received international attention after Judge Gorcyca sentenced the three children to juvenile hall for refusing to have lunch with their father.
“LT (one of the Tsimhoni children) also told the Respondent (Gorcyca) that he did not want to speak or apologize to his father because he believed his father was violent and because he witnessed his father hit his mother,” according to the complaint, referring to the now-notorious June 24 hearing at which Gorcyca sentenced all three kids to juvenile hall.
“Without any further inquiry, the Respondent found LT in direct civil contempt without further inquiry, stating, ‘The court finds you in contempt. I ordered you to have a healthy relationship with your father.’”
According to this and other examples from the complaint, Gorcyca “failed to act in a patient, dignified and courteous manner.”
“Your behavior in the hall with me months ago, your behavior in this courtroom, your behavior back there (judge’s chambers) is unlike anything I’ve seen in 46,000 cases. You, young man, are the worst one.
So you have bought yourself living in Children’s Village (juvenile hall), going to the bathroom in public and maybe summer school,” Gorcyca is quoted in the complaint as another example of her failure to “act in a patient, dignified and courteous manner.”
The complaint also alleges that Gorcyca made several false statements to the children including that the children would be housed in jail cells in Children’s Village, the children would not have any privacy in Children’s Village, and a review of their incarceration would not occur until they were 18.
In fact, Gorcyca released them from juvenile hall weeks later, after the case made international headlines.
Along with these complaints, the MJTC alleges Gorcya made several false statements to that body in defending herself. Gorcyca denied that she sent the children to Children’s Village for refusing to have lunch with their father though the transcripts back up that assertion.
During the proceeding Gorcyca also compared the children to the Charles Manson cult,
“Dad if you ever think that he has changed,” Gorcyca is quoted in the complaint, ‘and he’s no longer like Charlie Manson’s cult, then you let us know.”
At that moment, according to the complaint, Gorcyca, “used her index finger to make circles at her right temple.”
According to the complaint, Gorcyca previously told the MJTC that this motion was “not indicating that he was crazy but was referring to the forward moving of the therapy.”
“Respondent’s answer to the Commission was false,” the complaint states bluntly of this assertion. “When making the circles at her temple the Respondent was comparing LT (one of the Tsimhoni children) to Charles Manson’s cult.”
Judge Gorcyca’s chambers directed calls to her attorney, Tom Cranmer, who didn’t respond to an email for comment but issued this statement to the media:
“We are extremely disappointed that the Judicial Tenure Commission decided to proceed with a complaint but we are looking forward to telling the whole story of this tragic case at a formal hearing..
“In the end, we are confident that Judge Gorcyca will be fully vindicated and that the complaint against her will be dismissed.”
Emails to Omer Tsimhoni, his attorney Keri Middleditch and the guardian ad litem Bill Lansat were all left unreturned.
Middleditch previously defended Gorcyca’s behavior in a response to a motion from Eibshitz-Tsimhoni’s attorneys to have Gorcyca recused.
Lansat previously also compared the children to Manson’s cult, saying in a report:
“The children would not answer any adult; they huddled together as if they were sending messages/vibes to each other in some sort of Manson-like behavior.”
Paul Fischer, executive director of the MJTC, said the potential punishment for Gorcyca could range from a censure to a suspension without pay to removal from the bench.
Fischer told CDN it is up to Judge Gorcyca whether she should remove herself from the Tsimhoni case while the complaint moves forward.
The MJTC has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to appoint a special master to hear her case. Gorcyca has 14 days to respond.
As CDN has previously reported, the custody case has deteriorated. The mother has not been allowed to have any contact with her children in more than 90 days, and a new therapist, one not approved by the court, has recommended that the three children be split up, one going to foster care, one to a wilderness camp and one staying with the father, who has filed for permanent sole custody.
The following CBS YouTube.com video reports on the case after the Judge locked up the children: