Lengel: Shameful Supreme Court Lets Judge Gorcyca Off With a Mere Censure

July 28, 2017, 5:02 PM by  Allan Lengel

Oakland Circuit Judge Lisa Gorcyca.

Let's look at the facts.

It comes down to judges protecting a fellow judge -- a judge who no longer deserves to be on the bench.

Would anyone want to be subjected to the outrageous behavior Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca exhibited in a high-profile 2015 custody case in which she used abusive language in court and sent three Bloomfield Hills children, 9, 10 and 13, to a juvenile detention center after they refused to have lunch with their dad, Omer Tsimhoni? 

Hell no.   

After admitting that Judge Gorcyca "exhibited a lack of judicial temperament" and took some outlandish action on the bench, the state Supreme Court on Friday, in a majority opinion, rejected a recommendation by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission that Gorcyca  be suspended without pay for 30 days and fined $12,553. 

Yes, the court ruled, that Gorcyca screwed up royally, but concluded that she should only be subject to public censure. Public censure? Is that the equivalent of writing on the chalkboard in school, "I will not chew gum in class?"

Frankly, the Judicial Tenure Commission's recommendation of a one-month suspension without pay is far too light. Ignoring even that recommendation, the Supreme Court makes a mockery of the entire proceeding, concluding: 

In sum, respondent became admittedly frustrated and exasperated at a June 24, 2015 hearing when attempting to convince three children to participate in parenting time with their father. Under these circumstances, we agree with the Commission that respondent exhibited a lack of judicial temperament during the proceedings in open court when she directed at the three children and their mother language that was insulting, demeaning, and humiliating.

Respondent also committed legal error by holding the children in contempt, ordering them to be confined at the Oakland County Children’s Village, and leaving in the hands of their father, who was soon to be out of the United States, the ability of the children to purge themselves of civil contempt. But that decision did not constitute a “willful failure to observe the law.”

The judges voting in the majority are Brian K. Zahra, Stephen J. Markman, Bridget M. McCormack, David F. Viviano, Joan L. Larsen, Kurtis T. Wilder.

The children were detained two weeks before being sent to summer camp. How outrageous that all was -- sending kids to a juvenile jail for refusing to eat with dad. 

To his credit, Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein disagrees, writing in a dissenting opinion:

Respondent’s extreme misconduct and her inability to recognize its problematic nature warrant a severe sanction, even in the absence of other allegations of misconduct. I would impose the Commission’s recommended public censure and 30-day suspension.

This whole process is designed to protect the integrity of the judicial system, not to protect the offending judge.

Truthfully, the final Supreme Court order should read: Justice denied for the people of Michigan.  

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