Fiery Start to Ethics Case Against Michigan Judge

     PLYMOUTH, Mich. (CN) — A judge who jailed three children for being rude to their father took the stand Tuesday to fight ethics charges.
     This morning’s proceedings at 35th District Court come nearly a year after a bitter Oakland County custody battle ignited a media firestorm.
     Judge Lisa Gorcyca had previously ordered Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni’s three children to spend time with their father, General Motors engineer Omer Tsimhoni, and convened a contempt hearing last June when they defied her orders.
     At the time the children were ages 14, 10 and 9.
     The eldest boy said he saw his father hit his mother, but Gorcyca found the allegations unsubstantiated and implied that the children had been brainwashed.
     “You need to do a research program on Charlie Manson and the cult that he has,” the judge said. “Your behavior in the hall with me months ago, your behavior in this courtroom … is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in any 46,000 cases.”
     Gorcyca was stoic today as Margaret Rynier, an attorney for the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, opened by accusing the judge of abusing her office.
     “She used her power to intimidate and incarcerate,” Rynier said.
     None of the Tsimhoni children broke the law, but Gorcyca “told the children they would be living in jail,” Rynier added.
     “She was demeaning, sarcastic and she insulted their intelligence,” Rynier said.
     Adding that Gorcyca remained defiant about her decision in the face of media scrutiny, Rynier pointed to the judge’s attitude at her second hearing on the case.
     “She violated court rules and statutes,” Rynier said.
     Wearing a black pantsuit, the tall and thin Gorcyca answered with a quiet “yes” to several questions but grew feisty with Rynier after she felt the lawyer was taking her comments from transcripts out of context.
     One heated debate centered on Gorcyca’s hand gestures from the hearing last year. Though the commission said Gorcyca twirled her fingers near her head to call one of Tsimhoni children crazy, Gorcyca said she did not remember making the gesture and that it was not the message she was attempting to communicate.
     One of several lawyers at Gorcyca’s table, Thomas Cranmer of Miller Canfield began his opening statement by describing the judge’s passion for her job.
     “If she’s guilty, she’s guilty of caring too much,” Cranmer said.
     Cranmer described the original case as “every judge’s worst nightmare,” noting that the register of actions is 55-pages long printed out. After more than three dozen hearings, Gorcyca has issued 78 orders in the case.
     Arguing that Gorcyca did all she could to get the children to comply, Cranmer noted that efforts to bring in psychologists and alternative guardians proved fruitless.
     Gorcyca believed the kids were willfully disobeying order after order, Rynier said, before playing the 22-minute video of the hearing that went viral last year.
     Gorcyca watched it without expression, looking away intermittently.
     In her turn on the stand, the judge rebuffed Rynier’s focus on the abuse allegations that the Tsimhoni children brought against their father.
     Gorcyca said there simply wasn’t enough evidence.
     Judge Daniel Ryan sustained an objection at the hearing that prevented Rynier from following a line of question about the Tsimhoni family’s Jewish faith. The questioning tried to imply that Gorcyca sentenced then children to juvenile detention knowing that it would interfere with their religious obligations.
     Rynier also missed the mark in her concluding remarks when it turned out that a paragraph she accused Gorcyca of omitting was actually located on the next page.
     Gorcyca flashed a small smile as the Rynier abruptly went back to the table to conference with her colleagues.
     The trial continues tomorrow.

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