Oakland Family Court Judge to Challenge Misconduct Findings
|Special Master Dan Ryan|
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.
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.