Trial Date Set for Local Attorney
Attorney General Demands Funds be Returned to Church
by Elizabeth Wehman, editor
THE JUDDVILLE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, located at the corner of Juddville and Durand roads, is currently involved in a legal dispute with city of Owosso attorney William Brown. Brown has been the city of Owosso’s attorney since March 1, 1990. (Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
The Independent Newspaper has obtained documents presented to the Shiawassee Probate Court in the matter of the Jack E. Walworth, Trust where Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette has demanded Owosso City Attorney William Brown to reimburse all misappropriation of funds from the trust of Walworth to the Juddville United Methodist Church of Corunna. This order was filed in the Shiawassee County Probate Court on Friday, May 20 received via the freedom of information act from a theory of the case.
Attorney Brown was to distribute the trust of Jack E. Walworth three ways, according to court documents, with a large portion of the estate designated to the church. Following the death of Jack’s wife Ruth in 2014, it is alleged in the case records that Brown met with the church trustees and told them they needed to give him half of their portion due to his familial relationship with Walworth, as well as unpaid attorney fees associated with the case. According to court records, Brown stated that if this did not happen he would tie up the trust in litigation for years. The trustees of the church then complied and signed paperwork of a partial disclaimer drafted by Brown. Court records state that Brown never submitted any invoices or billing records to the church.
According to court records, on Sept. 10, 2014, United Methodist Juddville Church received its share of the trust in the amount of $1,097,258.81. Two family members of Walworth each received amounts of $10,000 and $15,000 accordingly. Allegations claim that the balance from the estate was held back by Brown. A trust inventory and account, prepared by Brown, showed $2,270,000 in assets of the estate in July of 2014.
The church believes, according to court documents, Brown breached his fiduciary duties by placing his own interests ahead of the church, failing to administer the trust in good faith, for the benefit of the church. His threat also breached his attorney duty to the Walworth family. He failed to advise the church to seek separate legal counsel. He also prepared the partial disclaimer for church signature, which specifically stated that no attorney services were performed by Brown and he also attempted to deceive the church as to the true nature of his claim. A petition to the court was filed by the church in December of 2015.
According to the petition, Brown also had a statutory duty to notify Attorney General Bill Schuette of the trust’s existence and of the partial disclaimer prepared by him and signed by the church. He informed the church in March of 2013, he would take care of what needed to be done. Brown failed to comply with the statutory duty and thus breached the fiduciary duties of the trust.
The Independent Newspaper has also reached out to the attorneys for William Brown, and has received no answer or rebuttal. A non-jury trial for the case has been set in Shiawassee County with a non-local judge for Sept. 30.