Commission Cracks Down on Child-Jailing Judge

     PLYMOUTH, Mich. (CN) — A Michigan judge who made headlines last year for incarcerating three unruly children earned stern remarks herself for abuse of office.
     Though the 34-page ruling from the state Judicial Tenure Commission does not lay out any punishment for Judge Lisa Gorcyca, it says her handling of an Oakland County custody battle amounted to misconduct in office.
     Gorcyca had convened the explosive contempt hearing on June 25 for the three children, ages 13, 10 and 9, of General Motors engineer, Omer Tsimhoni.
     “You are a defiant, contemptuous young man and I’m ordering you to spend the rest of the summer … I’m ordering you to Children’s Village,” Gorcyca told the oldest child as she imposed sentence.
     Though Gorcyca faulted the boy for ignoring an order to have lunch with his father the day before, the judicial commission found Friday that this child was not scheduled to spend time with the father until July.
     It was his younger siblings who had the June 24 lunch date.
     “It is fundamental that there can be no contempt, whether it be civil or criminal, direct or indirect, if there has been no applicable court order violated and there was no such order to do,” according to the ruling, signed by Judge Daniel Ryan, whom the Michigan Supreme Court appointed as special master for the disciplinary hearing.
     Ryan on Friday rejected Gorcyca’s arguments that disciplining her would have a chilling effect on how other judges handle similar cases.
     “This is not a case that stands for the proposition that judges cannot employ stern language or make difficult decisions from the bench in contentious cases,” Ryan wrote. “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 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 penultimate tools of inherent judicial power, a contempt finding, to deprive any individual, or children in this case, of their liberty.”
     Gorcyca had been upset with the children for calling their father abusive without any evidence.
     “Your father has never been charged with anything, your father’s never been convicted of anything,” Gorcyca said, according to the transcript. “Your father doesn’t have a personal protection order against him. … You, young man, have got it wrong. I think your father is a great man who has gone through hoops for you to have a relationship with him.”
     Gorcyca went on to question reports that the teen had a “high IQ.”
     “I am doubting [that] right now because of the way you act,” Gorcyca said. “You’re very defiant, you have no manners.”
     Implying that the children had been brainwashed by their mother, she asked them to research serial killer Charles Manson and his “cult.”
     Accompanying this remark, Gorcyca twirled her index finger by the side of her head in a circular motion — a movement the general populace understands as the “crazy” symbol.
     Ryan emphasized in the ruling “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,” the ruling states, abbreviating the oldest child’s name.
     Ryan also faulted Gorcyca for putting the “keys to the jailhouse” in the hands of the father — denying the children the opportunity to purge the civil contempt finding themselves.
     Another portion of the ruling says Gorcyca showed a “lack of personal responsibility for her own behavior and for the proper conduct and administration of the court in which the judge presides.”

For more on this case, read a copy of the complaint against Gorcyca and the judge’s answer.

%d bloggers like this: