By Rosemary K. Otzman
Over the past few weeks, clients of disbarred Belleville attorney Thomas A. White have been going to his closed office on Main Street, peering through the windows, and wondering how to get their legal files back.
Over the weeks, witnesses have reported seeing boxes of papers being loaded into a pickup truck at the office and being transported to White’s residence on Savage Road.
Under the regulations on disbarment, an attorney is supposed to send letters to all his clients telling them he is no longer practicing law and recommending they get new legal representation. He also is supposed to inform them who is the trustee of their files and where to pick them up.
But, White didn’t do that. He took the records home, along with his copy machine.
Attorney Steven Z. Cohen of Royal Oak is representing some of White’s former clients who claim he stole money from them. Cohen said he has found that White’s bankruptcy attorney Stuart A. Gold of Southfield is accepting emails and letters from White’s former clients asking for their files. Gold then contacts White and White gives the files to Dale Harrison to deliver.
Harrison worked for attorney White for 18 years delivering legal papers to the courts for him. He still does some work for White.
(Gold’s address is 24901 Northwestern Hwy., Suite 444, Southfield, MI 48075, (248) 350-8220, firstname.lastname@example.org . His office would neither confirm nor deny that he was handling acquisition of the files.)
Cohen said the clients’ files should not be in White’s possession now, especially since he has been disbarred and is under investigation by the Michigan State Police for possible criminal charges.
He said he has contacted Wendy Turner Lewis, the Bankruptcy Court Trustee in charge of White’s filing, her lawyer, and the Michigan State Bar, but no one has shown any interest in securing the files.
Attorney Cohen said he also was pretty frustrated with the work of the MSP since they have said they are investigating White for criminal charges and have been since May, with little progress.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office said it is waiting for a request for a warrant from the MSP before it can move forward in this case.
“Everybody knows they’re dragging their feet,” Cohen said of the MSP.
Cohen said he has talked to almost 40 of White’s former clients. He said one person sued White for malpractice and won, but there was a confidentiality clause so that can’t be spoken of publicly.
Cohen said some of White’s clients were awfully flakey, but White would promise them anything to get a commission, sometimes much larger than reasonable.
Cohen said a gentleman sent him an email that said that on July 13, two days before White was disbarred, White was soliciting money for his janitorial business, saying he would be closing his law office in very short order.
Cohen said he asked Gold to get the files of one of White’s former clients, which included original documents from the 1940s and the 1840s on oil, gas, and coal leases in another state.
“He finally got them back and then Harrison called and said, ‘We found more documents.’” Cohen said in amazement.
Cohen said the prosecutor’s office ordered a freeze on the audit of the jail because there was a criminal investigation and the audit wasn’t released, so sometimes the prosecutor moves ahead.
Cohen asked what is to stop White from doing things to the files while they are in his possession?
Cohen said MPS Det./Sgt. Marc Moore said that White admitted to him some of what he had done, so Moore could charge White on that while they work on multiple additional charges.
“All the clients believe he has an amazing power over the state police which is feeding a frenzy. There are a lot of upset people,” Cohen said.
“They can’t get anything moving at the state police,” he said. “There is no sense of urgency.”
Cohen said after White’s bankruptcy proceedings are over his former clients will be able to move forward with their cases, but until then White has many files at his disposal.
By Rosemary K. Otzman