The former head of a Michigan judicial watchdog board has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was fired for attempting to file a formal complaint against a judge who controversially sent 3 children to a juvenile detention center.
Paul J. Fischer joined Michigan’s Judicial Tenure Commission in January 2001. Fischer joined the state’s independent judicial disciplinary agency that is supposed to watch over about 600 judges. The commission can investigate claims of misconduct and make recommendations to the Michigan Supreme Court. By the time Fischer was fired in September he was the JTC’s executive director and general counsel. He is now suing the state and the commission with allegations that he was targeted for holding a judge accountable.
The judge in question is Judge Lisa Gorcyca of the Oakland County Circuit Court. In June of 2015, Judge Gorcyca’s actions became a national story after she found three children between the ages of 9 and 13 years old in contempt of court and sentenced them to a juvenile detention center for 17 days. Judge Gorcyca said the children were being punished for refusing to “have a healthy relationship with [their] father.”
“The actions of Judge Gorcyca received worldwide attention, including a video of the June 24, 2015 hearing going viral, exposing Judge Gorcyca’s egregious behavior on a national scale and leading many media commentators to characterize her conduct as highly abusive toward the minor children,” the complaint states.
According to Fischer, he was punished for doing what he was legally required to do as part of the commission. He claims that on July 10, 2015 he sent an email to JTC members asking for an informal investigation into Judge Gorcyca’s conduct. Although the investigation was eventually approved, Fischer says he faced push back from other commissioners who supported the judge.
After the formal complaint was filed, about 50 people identifying themselves as lawyers signed a document and press release supporting Judge Gorcyca. Their support of the judge became a topic of discussion at the JTC’s Jan. 11, 2016, meeting, according to Fischer’s lawsuit.
“The commissioners articulated and seemed to adopt the construct argued by the supporting lawyers: that Judge Gorcyca was a ‘good judge who had a bad day,’” the complaint states.
Fischer claims the JTC began holding executive meetings without him and avoided discussing the issue with him. Soon after the Michigan Supreme Court appointed retired Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Ryan to oversee the investigation. On July 1, 2016, Ryan issued a 34-page report confirming that Judge Gorcyca was guilty of judicial misconduct. Fischer called on the JTC to affirm the findings and recommend a nine-month unpaid suspension and $12,000 fine. Instead, Fischer says he was fired on September 12 as retaliation.
Fischer was replaced by Glenn Page, a JTC staff attorney. In November, Under Page’s interim watch, the JTC found that Gorcyca lied in responses to questions about the case and recommended she be publicly censured and suspended 30 days. The JTC said that Gorcyca’s answers “may have been inaccurate and somewhat misleading,” but she “did not make intentionally false statements,” reports the Detroit Free Press. The commission also said “the judge crossed the line from proper demeanor to caustic abuse.” The Michigan Supreme Court can now choose to accept or reject the recommendations.
Commission Chairman Judge David Sawyer said the case Gorcyca was dealing with was “difficult” and involved complicated issues of parental rights. Judge Sawyer did not elaborate as to whether the difficulties of the case justify locking up children who do not want to live with one parent.
Unfortunately, this is just another example of how the State’s involvement in our lives, especially in relation to children, is typically going to end badly.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1 and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact [email protected]
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