Blind Draw for Family Court Judges
|Mom and Dad Tsimhoni|
When you file a case in one of the county family courts here in Michigan, the county clerk that processes the complaint utilizes a blind draw system to assign your judge. This means that litigants cannot select the judge assigned to their case.
Sometimes, family court litigants are viscerally dissatisfied with the judge assigned to their case, especially when the judge makes decisions adverse to their interests. In every case, the family court judge will upset one of the two parents embroiled in a custody or parenting battle.
Judges are required to remain neutral, unbiased finders of fact; these judges are charged with determining the best interests of the minor children in every case. From time to time, a parent believes that the judge has lost their impartiality and claims that their judge is personally invested in their case to the point of bias.
When these allegations surface, one option available to family court litigants is to file a motion to disqualify the judge. If a family court judge denies such a motion, then the offended litigant can file the motion with the chief judge of the circuit court.
Recently, this procedure played-out in the high-profile, high-conflict Tsimhoni divorce. The mother attempted to disqualify Judge Lisa Gorcyca after her three children spent their summer in Children's Village and at a court-ordered juvenile camp, and more-recently, after she lost custody of the children to her ex-husband.
After these adverse rulings, and after she changed lawyers for about the 10th time, mother filed the motion to DQ the judge, and Judge Gorcyca denied the requested relief, refusing to step down from the case. Among the thousands of cases on the open family court docket in Oakland County, this one stands-out due to mother's severe parental alienation against the father.
Mother's new lawyer filed an appeal with Oakland Circuit's Judge Nanci Grant, the chief judge of the court.
Now, as this parental alienation case blew-up in the national media because both parents refused to work together as co-parents, they tossed it into the lap of the Oakland County Family Court where Judge Nanci Grant has recused herself from hearing the appeal of mother's attempt to disqualify Judge Gorcyca.
This was a very strategic move by the veteran Oakland County chief judge. Now that she has recused herself, the case goes before the plenary court to determine whether any of the remaining judges wish to take the case. We don't think there will be any takers.
If none of the judges on the Oakland County Circuit Court want this steaming pile of horse dung, it goes to the family court judges of an adjacent county like Wayne, Genesee or Macomb County Circuit Courts.
The parents now need to bury the hatchet and regain control of their family for the sake of their children.
One of the best kept secrets of the family court is that the judges are powerless if the parents agree on a plan going forward. If they cannot agree, then they judges have the power to control every aspect of of their family life.
It is exceedingly difficult and rare to successfully bring a motion to disqualify a judge. For the most part, family court litigants are stuck with the "luck-of-the-draw" where judicial case assignments are concerned.