Emotions often run high in matters of family law. When a divorce involves a protracted child custody dispute, emotions can run especially high. Some observers in Oakland County think a judge there might have been caught up in the emotional turmoil of a custody case and allowed anger to cloud her judgment and behavior.
The Judicial Tenure Commission filed an ethics complaint against Judge Lisa Gorcyca, alleging that she used a raised, angry voice, "laughed at the children and was sarcastic." The complaint also alleges that the Oakland County jurist made false statements in a Tenure Commission inquiry into the matter.
A year ago, Gorcyca stirred controversy when she ordered the three kids – a 9-year-old, 10-year-old and 13-year-old – to juvenile detention after they refused to have lunch with their father. Judge Gorcyca says that it was really the kids themselves who chose detention rather than meet with their father.
Some of Gorcyca's colleagues say it's unfair to judge the judge based on one hearing in a divorce that has dragged on for 5 years. A family court counselor described the judge as "extremely patient and very positive" and said the jurist's behavior in the hearing was out of character.
An attorney quoted in a TV station report said the judge used her power "to intimidate, to frighten and to incarcerate" the children "in a fit of anger."
Gorcyca withdrew from the case late last year.
We are not going to judge the judge, but we would like to note that everyone – judges, attorneys, parents and children – makes mistakes. Our job is to own the mistakes, learn from them and avoid repeating them so that all of us can move forward in difficult matters.