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I-Team: Stunning accusations in Van Buren Co. court docs

Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 |
I-Team: Stunning accusations in Van Buren Co. court docs story image
VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Newschannel 3 I-Team is discovering some stunning allegations we found in court documents filed in Van Buren County.   The statements made in these court documents allege wrongdoing by at least two attorneys  and a judge.  The documents also hint at wrong-doing by several other leaders who work at the county courthouse including the county's elected Prosecutor.

The stunning accusations come in a court motion filed in a civil case, HLV, LLC vs ELC in the Van Buren County Circuit Court.   It turns out that case is an unusual civil proceeding that's created quite a stir.

There are five key people you need to know about in this situation.  Bob Baker is the plaintiff in the civil case and he's trying to collect a big debt of $694,000 in Van Buren County. His lawyer is Don Visser, based in Kentwood.  Kelly Page and Gary Stewart are representing the defendant in the case and both practice together in Paw Paw.  Page, by the way, is an attorney for the Village of Paw Paw and for Almena Township.  Finally, Judge Paul Hamre was presiding over the civil case. 

In this controversial filing, Don Visser's asking the court to remove Stewart and Page from the civil case because of what they allegedly talked about with Judge Hamre.   It's an alleged substantive conversation about the civil case in the judge's office without the other side being there.  The filing calls what happened quote "unlawful ex parte communications" or better translated, communications with only one side.

But the bombshells come later in the filing: "Upon information and belief, Attorneys Page and/or Stewart improperly utilized relationships within the judicial system, including those with the judge, county prosecutor and assistant county prosecutors."

The filing continues: "Upon information and belief, Attorneys Page and Stewart improperly utilized relationships within the judicial system to retaliate against plaintiff's representatives and plaintiff's attorneys."

Finally the court document says quote: "The improper relationship between Judge Hamre and attorneys Page and Stewart has led to decisions outside the range of possible judicial outcomes and determinations in this (civil) case."

While the documents do mention quote "improperly utilized relationships", they don't go into details as to the nature of these relationships or perhaps how the public officials including County Prosecutor Mike Bedford may or may not have involved themselves in this case. 

"That's (the allegations) simply not true," County Prosecutor Mike Bedford said in statement to us.  "It's highly offensive for attorneys to make accusations when there are no facts to support it."

Donald Visser who wrote these court documents told us off-camera today: "The matters that have taken place in Van Buren County over the past several months are the most personally upsetting and troubling events in my more than 35 years of practice as an attorney.  My entire career has been spent defending our judicial system and its merits - a system which appears to be broken in Van Buren County."

We know already two of the three judges in this Circuit Court including Judge Hamre have recused themselves from hearing anything further in this case meaning it's likely a judge from outside the county will preside over this.

On Tuesday at 5:00, we'll begin to release the full results of our investigation and tell you why it was so difficult for the I-Team to get some answers as to what really happened here.
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Business News

Last Update on October 31, 2014 17:47 GMT

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The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 86.9 from 84.6 in September. That's the highest since July 2007, five months before the Great Recession began. Still, the index regularly topped 90 before the downturn.

Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, says that almost six in ten of the respondents said the economy has improved recently, the highest proportion in more than 10 years.

The measure is the second this week to show consumer confidence has reached the highest level since the recession. Greater confidence and more hiring could lead to faster spending and healthier economic growth.

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Spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists believe September will be a temporary pause as continued hiring gains pushing up spending and the overall economy in coming months.

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