DETROIT — A judge who sent three children to juvenile detention for failing to see their divorced father during a fierce dispute over parenting time won’t be suspended from the bench, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The court said a censure seemed appropriate for Oakland County Judge Lisa Gorcyca. She made headlines in 2015 when she held three kids — ages 13, 10 and 9 — in contempt and sent them to juvenile detention for 17 days.
“You want to have your birthdays in Children’s Village? Do you like going to the bathroom in front of people?” Gorcyca said, referring to the name of the detention center.
The judge said they were under the spell of their mother, a doctor, and she made a reference to the followers of former California cult leader Charles Manson.
The Supreme Court said Gorcyca committed misconduct by failing to be respectful. But the court said other mistakes by the judge were legal errors made in good faith. It also noted that no attorney immediately objected to Gorcyca’s contempt decisions.
Justice Brian Zahra, writing for the 6-1 majority, said a 30-day suspension recommended by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission was too severe.
“We have a judge with no prior record of misconduct who in an isolated instance exercised poor judgment and displayed a lack of appropriate judicial temperament and demeanor during a highly acrimonious and protracted divorce and custody proceeding,” the court said.
Justice Richard Bernstein said he was in favor of a suspension.
Gorcyca has “continuously refused to recognize that this conduct could be seen as improper, and instead she has shifted responsibility to the children — individuals who were not parties to the case before her — and their attorneys for failing to object to her contempt holdings,” Bernstein wrote.
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