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Federal appeals court throws out part of case surrounding Judge Paul Hamre

VAN BUREN COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A federal appeals court has thrown out a case targeting government officials in Van Buren County, in a story the I-Team broke, and has been following for the last two years.

In 2012, Circuit Court Judge Paul Hamre and two attorneys were accused of mishandling a civil lawsuit.

Since then, these three--and many others--including two prosecutors have been named in a federal lawsuit.

A ruling was just issued by the higher court.

A federal opinion on the case stemming back to 2012, was just issued this week.

In it, most of the claims in the lawsuit were dismissed, with more decisions still to come.

"The history of this federal lawsuit involved our Assistant Prosecutor Mike McKay, for trespassing against some business owner," said Van Buren County Prosecutor Michael Bedford.

It's just one of many accusations coming from a civil lawsuit over hundreds of thousands of dollars in storage trailers, which quickly turned into something much more.

"They thought we had hung up on the line, and they did not hang their phone up," said plaintiff Bob Baker.

Following a conference call, Baker filed a complaint of an improper relationship between the judge handling the case, Paul Hamre, and attorneys Kelly Page and Gary Stewart, after overhearing part of their ensuing conversation.

Baker later sued public officials, filing 8 counts, accusing them of racketeering, and going after the prosecutor for trading favors.

"We believe they have broken the law in far more ways than we know now," Baker said.

"Following those charges, the county was sued basically for malicious prosecution, because it involved an attorney and another individual who were not happy about being charged with trespassing," Bedford said.

The claims since filed against Van Buren County are now gone, after they were ruled on this week by a federal judge.

Local leaders say they're relieved.

"It stems from someone that was upset that they were being asked to answer for their wrong doing," Bedford said. "He reviewed every opinion and dismissed every county, I believe that is a strong message that Van Buren County is not what the accusers made it out to be."

Because there were so many people named in the lawsuit, the judge split the case in half.

Monday's ruling involved county officials, and oral arguments were just heard for the defense attorneys.

Another opinion is expected to be heard in the coming months.

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