Michigan judge finds children in contempt of her order for 'healthy relationship' with non-custodial father

by Kim Pennington, National Correspondent |
Pool Photo

DETROIT (Christian Examiner) --The long-term future of three children ages 14, 10, and 9 remains uncertain after Oakland County Family Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca first ordered the sibling to a local juvenile detention center and then to a summer camp after she said they defied her order to have a relationship with their non-custodial father.

In her July 10 order sending the siblings to a summer camp, Gorcyca lifted her original June 24 contempt of court findings against the children for which she had placed them at Children's Village, a local juvenile detention center that houses 200 juvenile delinquents.

The Judge issued the contempt of court rulings after the children refused to meet with their father for lunch claiming the children were defying her previous order to "have a healthy relationship" with him. The original sentence to juvenile detention was to remain in effect until the children decided to have a relationship with their father or turned 18.

Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, a pediatric eye doctor, widely known glaucoma researcher, and former assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Michigan, and her husband Omer Tsimhoni, an internationally prominent traffic safety researcher and General Motors engineer, divorced in 2009 after Omer accepted a job in Israel and permanently moved there in 2008. The two, married in 1995, have been locked in a custody battle ever since.

Gorcyca has been severely criticized not only for her previous decision to send the children to juvenile detention but also for the way in which she handled the June 24 hearing.

The Oakland County Daily Tribune detailed Judge Gorcyca interactions with each child.

The 14-year-old boy appeared before the Judge apart from his siblings and apologized for not understanding the rules.

"I do not apologize for not talking to (the father) because I have a reason for that and that's because he's violent and I saw him hit my mom and I'm not going to talk to him," the child also said.

Gorcyca called him a "defiant, contemptuous young man" and asked if there was anything he wanted to say about being sent to Children's Village.

"I didn't do anything wrong," the 14-year-old replied.

"No, you did," Gorcyca insisted. "I ordered you to talk to your father. You chose not to talk to your father. You defied a direct court order. It's direct contempt so I'm finding you guilty of civil contempt."

The boy responded: "But he was the one that (did) something wrong. I thought there (were) rules for not hitting someone."

"You're supposed to have a high IQ, which I'm doubting right now because of the way you act," Gorcyca stated.

"You're very defiant. You have no manners . . . There is no reason why you do not have a relationship with your father. Your father has never been charged with anything. Your father's never been convicted of anything. Your father doesn't have a personal protection order against him. Your father is well-liked and loved by the community, his co-workers, his family (and) his colleagues. You, young man, have got it wrong. I think your father is a great man who has gone through hoops for you to have a relationship with you."

The Judge continued: "You need to do a research program on Charlie Manson and the cult that he has . . . You have bought yourself living in Children's Village, going to the bathroom in public, and maybe summer school . . . You are so mentally messed up right now and it's not because of your father," she continued in her lecture to the 14 year-old.

"And one day you are going to realize what's going on in this case and you're going to apologize to your dad," she continued.

Gorcyca then addressed the father about his teenage son, "Dad, if you ever think that he has changed and he's no longer like Charlie Manson's cult, then you let us know and we can (review the case)," she said.

Gorcyca denied visitation rights to Maya and everyone from her family and refused to allow mother and son to say goodbye to each other before the 14 year-old was taken into custody.

At a separate hearing later that day, the 10-year-old boy spoke briefly to the judge and his father apologizing for his behavior and telling his dad, "The judge wanted me to talk to you so here is something about myself. I enjoy soccer and I hope to be on the soccer team."

When asked if he would have lunch with his father in the courthouse cafeteria, the 10-year-old replied: "I'll go with my brother (to Children's Village)" but not before being told by the Judge, "God gave you a brain. He expects you to use it. You are not your big, defiant brother who's living in jail. Do you want to live in jail?"

When the boys' 9-year-old sister gave no audible response to Gorcyca's inquiry about whether she wanted to apologize to her father, Gorcyca unleashed on her:

"I know you're kind of religious," Gorcyca told the girl who said she would attempt to work with her father during visits.

"You're going to be a teenager," Gorcyca told her. "You want to have your birthdays in Children's Village? Do you like going to the bathroom in front of people? Is your bed soft and comfortable at home? I'll tell you this, if you two don't have a nice lunch with your dad and make this up to your dad, you're going to come back here (after lunch) and I'm going to have the deputies take you to Children's Village."

After telling the judge she would not eat lunch with her father, Gorcyca continued her speech.

"I've never seen anything like this," she said.

"One day you can watch this video and realize that you two have been brainwashed. Your dad is a good man . . . This is not normal behavior. No adult in this courtroom, except one, thinks this is normal. Every single adult in this courtroom thinks you have been brainwashed."

Both Gorcyca and the father's attorney accuse the children's mother of turning the children against their father.

The Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence released a statement denouncing Gorcyca's actions.

"If a child has become brave enough to state that his/her parent is violent, the court system needs to listen to that child."

Referring to the 14 year-old, the organization stated, "Unfortunately, Judge Gorcyca further took this child's voice from him, not only making these children unsafe but traumatizing them further by tearing them away from their non- violent parent and placing them in detention."

According to The Detroit Free Press, previous court documents show Maya requested a personal protection order in September 2010 claiming in a written complaint Omer assaulted her in front of the children. Omer "hit me, pushed me against my car and assaulted me," she said in the complaint in which she also alleged Omer threatened to kill the children.

Maya further contended in the complaint that Omer closed a house door on her fingers endangering her ability to perform eye surgeries and that he "threatened to fix things so I never work as a surgeon again."

Gorcyca was the presiding judge in that case and refused the personal protection order three months after the complaint was filed on grounds the "petitioner failed to complete the process."

Omer too has made public accusations against his ex-wife. In a June 2014 hearing, Maya was accused of preventing him from contacting his children from Israel, of wanting to take the children to Italy during the time he was in the United States to see them, and of refusing to tell him the date of their son's bar mitzvah.

A federal court oversaw a separate hearing regarding whether the children should be sent to Israel.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland wrote that he found neither parent "fully credible or fully persuasive" due to inconsistencies in statements made by each party. He ruled against the children being returned to Israel since they "were not present in Israel long enough to establish it as their habitual residence."

It is unknown where the children will go after the two-week camp ends. Omer's lawyer intends to file a motion to grant custody to the father.

At the July 10 hearing where Gorcyca ordered the children to be moved from the detention center to a summer camp and granted visitation rights to both parents, the Judge expressed anger at the publicity surrounding the case. She accused the media of creating a "frenzied, misinformed and misguided public."