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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Friday, July 15, 2016

Oakland Family Court Judge to Challenge Misconduct Findings

Special Master Dan Ryan
Fallout for Oakland Family Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca on the Tsimhoni parental alienation case continued this month with the release of the Special Master's report to the Judicial Tenure Commission. The report made findings of judicial misconduct that Judge Gorcyca has the opportunity to challenge prior to the case heading to the Michigan Supreme Court for disposition.

Judge Gorcyca's lawyer, Thomas Cranmer of the Miller Canfield law firm, has vowed to challenge retired Judge Dan Ryan's findings as Special Master, and has until July 29th to file a statement of objections. This case will continue for the balance of this calendar year.

Here is how Judge Ryan concluded his 34-page report:
Contrary to the chilling impact Judge Gorcyca contends this case will have on judges across the state, this is not a case that stands for the proposition that judges cannot employ stern language or make difficult decisions from the bench in contentious cases. It is a disciplinary action which stands for the singular proposition that if a judge is going to use the inherent power of contempt, the ultimate “tool in the tool box” after years of “frustration,” the judge may wish may wish to consult the owner’s manual to make sure that she or he are using the tool properly before employing one of the 34 penultimate tools of inherent judicial power, a contempt finding, to deprive any individual, or children in this case, of their liberty.
Prior to the case being placed on the Supreme Court's docket for the next term, Judge Gorcyca's case goes to the full Judicial Tenure Commission for a review of the Special Master's findings. The JTC can dismiss the complaint at that time, or make recommendations to the Supreme Court.

The "next steps" in this procedure are summarized by the Commission on its website:
After hearing the testimony, or after reviewing the master’s findings, the Commission may dismiss the matter if it determines that there has been insufficient evidence of misconduct.  However, if the Commission determines that misconduct has been established by a preponderance of the evidence, it may recommend that the Michigan Supreme Court impose discipline against the judge.  The Commission itself has no authority to discipline a judge; the Michigan Constitution reserves that role for the Supreme Court.  The Commission may recommend that the Court publicly censure a judge, impose a term of suspension, or retire or remove the judge from office.  The Commission issues a Decision and Recommendation, which triggers the next series of steps.
It is difficult, given the misconduct findings of the Special Master, to predict what the plenary JTC will do, but we here at the Law Blogger think we know what the Supreme Court will do, regardless of any recommendations from the JTC.

Respectfully, while we applaud how Judge Ryan set about doing the difficult job he was asked to perform, we disagree with his ultimate conclusions, and agree with Judge Gorcyca on one key point: the next family court judge that considers making a hard decision to enforce her orders in a high-conflict custody matter will no doubt think twice about resorting to her contempt powers. In our opinion, that impacts the independence of the judiciary in the wrong way.

To appeal a decision to a higher tribunal is one thing; but to remove a jurist from the bench essentially as a consequence for a particular decision is not the way courts are designed to function.

Accordingly, while the Supreme Court may agree with the tone of Judge Ryan's misconduct findings, we here at the Law Blogger believe the High Court will reject any JTC recommendation of reprimand or suspension in this case. We hasten to add, in our opinion, that is the right result.

Regardless of the outcome, this case now stands for the proposition that family law professionals of every stripe, eventually, will bear the scars of their work in the industry.

Post #549

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHat???? Seriously!!!!! Nobody is fooled by the cuthroat get rich scam that these judges and the attorneys have going. Profiting of children and creating chaos to create dollats for divorce. Does the MI Supreme court want a JUDGE that will lie to them? Does the MI Supreme court feel comfortable with a judge that knowlingly broke the laws of the court?

July 17, 2016 at 9:05 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am trying to understand exactly why the outcome of this case would cause a judge pause in using his or her contempt powers. I think this sentiment is based more on siding with the judge because she's "one of us" versus the logic of the actual decision. The actual decision, to me, did not seem to criticize the judge for using her contempt powers. Rather, it criticized her for using her contempt powers 1) against a person who was not actually in contempt of an order because he was not subject to the order. This is in regards to the oldest child who was not scheduled to have visitation that day but at another day and time. 2) to give the power of the keys to someone other than the person in contempt - in this case the father who was leaving the country - which did not allow the children the opportunity to purge their contempt. If this case causes judges to rethink issuing contempt orders that are not lawful, that is certainly not a bad outcome. I don't think it means judges have to fear issuing lawful contempt orders.

July 18, 2016 at 1:57 AM 
Blogger survivor3306 said...

I sure hope you are wrong. How many 'freebees' do judge get? A judge should be held to account all the time. They are supposed to be held to a higher standard. And the pain she caused those kids is not illusionary. If we don't give bank robbers a freebee for having a bad day, we shouldn't give judges one.

July 19, 2016 at 3:08 PM 
Blogger The Law Blogger said...

This case continues to be a lightening rod of discord. When I linked this post on our FB page, the scathing comments just piled-up; some had to be deleted.

July 21, 2016 at 9:50 PM 

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