DETROIT -- A Michigan judge has removed herself from hearing a long and bitter custody battle that landed her in hot water with the state's judicial watchdog agency after she sent three young siblings to juvenile detention last summer for refusing to meet with their father.
In a four-page opinion issued this week, Family Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca said she has done nothing wrong in the Tshimoni family custody case but she was withdrawing on her own volition because the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission accused her of misconduct and she wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
"This court has always maintained, and continues to maintain, that it holds no bias or prejudice for or against either party," Gorcyca wrote. "However, based on the recent filing of the Formal Complaint referenced above by the Judicial Tenure Commission, this court finds, based on objective and reasonable perceptions, that its continued assignment may create an appearance of impropriety."
Even as she recused herself from the case, Gorcyca denied a Dec. 16 motion by Maya Eibschitz-Tsimmhoni, the mother of the three children at the center of the custody battle, asking the judge disqualify herself based on prior case law. Gorcyca said the case cited by the mother's attorneys "had no precedential value when compared to the facts of this case."
The Judicial Tenure Commission filed the two-count ethics complaint earlier this month accusing Gorcyca of failing to "act in a patient, dignified, and courteous manner" during a court hearing in the case last summer and then making false statements to the watchdog agency in her response to its initial inquiry. The children, now ages 10, 11 and 14, were handcuffed and removed from the courtroom by deputies during the July 24 contempt hearings before Gorcyca before being sent to juvenile detention.
The tenure commission complaint alleges that during the contempt hearings Gorcyca "displayed improper demeanor," "used a raised and/or angry voice," "laughed at the children and was sarcastic." Gorcyca had the children brought before her after they refused to have lunch or meet with their estranged father, Omer Tsimhoni.
The complaint says Gorcyca also "made significant misrepresentations of law and fact" during the hearings. According to the document, she told the children they would be housed in jail cells at Children's Village -- a county detention center; they wouldn't have privacy using the restroom and their incarceration would not be reviewed until after they turned 18.
Gorcyca had been presiding over the custody dispute since the parents divorced several years ago . The father is an internationally prominent traffic safety researcher and engineer who works for GM and the mother is a pediatric eye doctor and widely known glaucoma researcher.
The case has resulted in dozens of court appearances throughout the years. The children, who spent two weeks in juvenile detention, are currently with their father under Gorcyca's orders.
(Free Press Staff Writers Elisha Anderson and Gina Damron contributed to this report.)