June 5, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
That case involved Maya and Omer Tsimhoni’s divorce and custody case involving their three kids. The short story is that Maya got primary custody and immediately set out on a course of parental alienation of the children from Omer. Such, at any rate, is my reading of the facts of the case and I’d bet good money that I’m right. Descriptions of the children’s behavior by their own Guardian ad Litem and others make it pretty clear what had been going on. The case had dragged on for 66 months, during which time, repeated efforts by Omer to see his children had been thwarted by their mother. That resulted in an astonishing 13 separate motions by Omer within a little over a year, all but one of which pleaded with the judge to simply enforce her own orders that he be allowed to spend time with his children.
Finally, she did. She ordered the children to spend 90 days with their father and undergo therapy in order to improve their much-damaged relationship with him. During that 90 days, Maya was to have no visitation with the children because she’d so doggedly deprived Omer of time with them.
During the months of trying to enforce those orders, it wasn’t just Maya who refused to obey them, the kids did too. So the judge handling the case, Lisa Gorcyca, at her wits end, eventually had them confined to Oakland County’s Children’s Village for their contempt of court. The kids were led away in handcuffs by Sheriff’s deputies and remained in custody for 17 days until they agreed to living with their father as per Gorcyca’s order.
According to the Guardian ad Litem, the therapy proved at least somewhat successful in reintegrating the children with their father.
Such is the case of Tsimhoni vs. Tsimhoni.
Now for the sidelight. Someone got the bright idea that Judge Gorcyca had violated ethical principles for judges in her behavior in court the day she ordered the children to the OCCV. Now, my guess is that Maya and her lawyers are probably that “someone.” But whoever put the bug in prosecutor Paul Fischer’s ear, he decided to bring ethics charges against Gorcyca. Those seem to be based entirely on what she said and did at that final hearing.
Now, apparently Gorcyca could have behaved better. She could have been calmer and less outspoken. Her temperament could have been more, well, judicious. But no one seriously believes that a single instance of less than ideal conduct should warrant disciplining an otherwise perfectly capable and ethical judge. Everyone understands that judges, like the rest of us, have good days and bad days. And everyone further understands that judicial behavior must be considered in context.
And the context of the Tsimhoni case was such as to try the patience of Job. From the outside looking in, it appears to be a particularly flagrant example of parental alienation by Maya, including the invariable and routine flouting of Judge Gorcyca’s orders. As such, I’d say that Gorcyca’s major error was in being too patient, too lenient on Maya Tsimhoni. If she’d acted sooner, my guess is that Maya would have had less opportunity to alienate the children and the children would have been more amenable to time with Dad.
And it’s beginning to look like my take on the whole case may have been correct. That’s because the prosecution of Judge Gorcyca on ethics charges has apparently just been completed and it didn’t go well for the prosecution.
For one thing, almost 200 (200!) family lawyers who’ve practiced before Judge Gorcyca have just signed a letter stating their unreserved support and respect for her. Among many other plaudits, the lawyers said “Judge Gorcyca’s judicial demeanor and temperament are above reproach.” That’s in addition to citing the many awards she’s received for her “knowledge of the law, personal integrity and judicial temperament.” So, in attacking Gorcyca, it looks like the prosecutors couldn’t have chosen a worse target.
Then there was the testimony of the attorneys who were present at the hearing that’s so upset the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. Read about it here (Detroit Free Press, 6/1/16).
According to testimony from the attorneys who represented the children during the hearing last year, there was nothing unusual about the children being handcuffed, because it’s normal operating procedure at the courthouse.
And then there’s the Guardian ad Litem again, William Lansat.
Witnesses, including William Lansat, the children’s guardian ad litem, who is responsible for representing the best interests of the children, said despite repeated efforts, including with various therapists, the children would not talk to their father or look at him and called their behavior "disturbing."
When Lansat was asked if he had a problem with how Gorcyca handled the proceedings last June, he replied: “Absolutely not.”
So, does anyone involved in the case find anything amiss about what Gorcyca did? Amazingly, not a soul seems to. This article by Brian Dickerson gives some needed context to the case (Detroit Free Press, 6/3/16). Dickerson thinks it’s all about prosecutorial overreach by the Commission, its lead prosecutor, Paul Fischer and his assistant, Margaret Rynier.
But if there is any case for the assertion that Judge Gorcyca’s conduct in the Tsimhoni case demands harsh ethical discipline, suspension, or even removal from the circuit court seat to which voters have twice elected her, Judicial Tenure Commission prosecutor Margaret Rynier failed to make it during a two-day hearing before Ryan…
Rynier’s interrogation of Gorcyca was as curious as it was ineffectual. She treated the accused judge the way a prosecutor treats a witness she is sure jurors will dislike, telegraphing a withering skepticism that bordered on hostility.
Yet none of the nine other witnesses who testified at the hearing — including four attorneys appointed to represent the interests of the Tsimhoni children — appeared to share the prosecutor’s righteous indignation at Gorcyca’s conduct. None supported the tenure commission’s allegation that Gorcyca had incarcerated the Tsimhoni children without the legal authority to do so or that she had lashed out punitively in a moment of extra-judicial rage.
That’s right, the prosecution’s “case” consisted of no one – that’s right, not a single witness – who believes Gorcyca did anything wrong during the hearing in question or at any other time. Rynier’s entire “case” consisted of her own hostility toward Gorcyca. Amazing.
As I said, Dickerson believes this is an example of overzealousness on Fischer’s part and he cites two other examples to support his theory. He may well be right, but allow me to suggest another motive, one Dickerson himself alludes to.
Like a whirlpool that menaces all who sail near it, the bitter custody battle between Omer Tsimhoni and Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni continues to suck careless navigators into its murky depths.
The newest to brave its roiling waters is retired Wayne County Circuit Judge Dan Ryan, the fact finder designated to decide whether Oakland County Circuit Judge Lisa Gorcyca committed ethical atrocities last summer when she sought to end a standoff in the five-and-a-half-year dispute by incarcerating the Tsimhonis’ three minor children for contempt of court.
A whirlpool that menaces all who sail near it” is a fair description of the type of scorched-earth parental alienation that Maya Tsimhoni seems to have engaged in. It’s now threatened an apparently capable and ethical judge as well as Omer Tsimhoni and his children. The mechanism by which PA can impact so many includes the failure to act against it and, as I mentioned earlier, I believe Gorcyca is probably guilty of that offense.
But Fischer looks to be doing his part as well. In effect, Fischer is going to bat for a parental alienator. His pursuit of an apparently meritless case against Gorcyca announces loudly and clearly to all other Michigan judges that they stand up to an alienating parent at their peril. Even if Gorcyca walks away from this with no discipline, as she should, her reputation has been tarnished and she’s been put through months of hell defending herself. What judge wants to go through that?
The “whirlpool” Dickerson conjured up is parental alienation, its effects are far-ranging and dangerous. The best response is an early one that communicates to the alienator without doubt that PA will not be tolerated. I’ve said many times that such an approach would be good for kids. It’s obviously good for judges too.
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