Strange twists in bankruptcy case

Strange twists in bankruptcy case

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

A Winnebago County circuit judge has declared that Clarence Vance is his own father. This was news to Clarence because his father has been deceased for some time.

Vance has been in the local courts for about a year now because he filed bankruptcy and because he was named defendant in a defamation case.

Clarence and his wife, Harriet, have been in and out of jail several times on contempt of court charges. Clarence is in jail at this time as the latest in a succession of circuit judges tries to force him to sign over property that Vance doesn’t own.

Confused? Perhaps we can explain. Clarence Vance put some of the property he owned into a trust for his son. The trust is known as the Thousand Hills Trust.

Harriet Vance is trustee of that trust. The land involved had been rented to a tenant farmer who fell into arrears on his payments. Harriet placed liens against the farmer’s crops to collect what was due.

The tenant farmer got an attorney and filed a defamation suit against Clarence Vance. The signature of Clarence Vance, however, was not on the liens. When the court issued a summons and complaint, it named Clarence Vance as defendant, but the papers were served on Clarence L. Vance, who sits in jail today.

In 1997, Clarence L. Vance filed bankruptcy. His only creditor was the State Bank of Davis. The bank’s attorney was also the bankruptcy trustee in the case, an obvious conflict of interest. There was no corrective action, however, and the case moved into the circuit court.

At that point, the attorney/trustee quit the case. Another trustee took over and got a court order to hire the original trustee to help him. The bank did not pursue the collection in the circuit court.

Under Illinois law, the trustee could not sell off the property because it was in a trust. That made little difference. The trustee not only revoked the discharge of debts for Clarence L. Vance, but he sold the land in the Thousand Hills Trust.

The State Bank of Davis filed a secured claim of more than $120,000. Some $135,000 was obtained, and the bank got about $15,000 of it. The remainder was pocketed by the bankruptcy trustee and his team.

Clarence L. Vance attempted to get the courts to recognize that he is not his father. Associate Judge Brian Shore, however, ruled that he is the Clarence Vance named as defendant in the defamation case.

Judge Ronald Pirrello, in fact, granted the tenant farmer a default judgment of $300,000. Pirrello then withdrew from the case and sent it to Judge Shore. Along with that went an order to show cause, an indication that there was intent to jail the Vances. The tenant farmer’s attorney, in fact, wanted Harriet Vance jailed for six months for contempt.

Neither Clarence L. nor Harriet have committed any crime. Both are in their 60s. Judge Shore, last month, issued a bench warrant for Harriet Vance. He said he will rule later on Vance’s motion to vacate the default order.

In addition, the judge declared that anyone filing papers on behalf of Clarence L. Vance would be considered as practicing law without a license unless the person is an attorney. Since Vance has no attorney, he is effectively prevented from doing anything to aid his cause.

Editor’s Note—Research for this article was contributed by Barbara Wells.

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