Judge lifting bench warrant for singer Anita Baker in civil lawsuit

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Grammy Award-winning singer Anita Baker no longer has to worry about getting locked up.  During an emergency hearing Monday morning, a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge removed a bench warrant that had been issued for the star as part of a civil lawsuit. 

Baker talked to 7 Action News Investigative Reporter Heather Catallo on the phone moments after the judge’s decision.  She was very emotional, saying she is “grateful” and said she was ready to defend herself in court.  “I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said Baker.

The bench warrant was signed last Thursday as part of a three-year-old lawsuit that Baker and her attorney, Jamal Hamood, say they knew nothing about. 

In 2010, Ray A. Smith Painting and Decorating of Grosse Pointe Park sued the singer for $15,351, allegedly because she failed to pay the rest of her bill for work done inside her Grosse Pointe home.

The painter’s attorney got a default judgment against Baker after she didn’t show up for a creditor’s hearing.

“They claim that they had served her with a notice for a creditors exam, she never received any such notice,” said Hamood.  “She had pictures of the shoddy workmanship, she was prepared to show that Ray Smith painting wasn’t entitled to any money whatsoever.  Rather than face that defense, Ray Smith voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit in 2010,” said Hamood.

Hamood says Baker thought the matter was settled, until Thursday when news broke about the bench warrant.  That’s when she says she found out the painter had filed another lawsuit in 2011.

“They get a judgment against her without her knowing about it, then they can use that judgment and go to the media and use the media to embarrass her,” said Hamood.

Smith’s attorney denies that.

“Believe me I would have loved to have dealt with her attorney but I wasn’t aware of one,” said attorney Daniel Gerow.

Hamood asked for an Emergency Hearing Monday morning to remove the bench warrant and set aside the default judgment.

“The court is going to lift the bench warrant, the court’s not going to require a bond at this time,” said Judge Edward Ewell, Jr.
“I’m heartened to see Judge Ewell’s reaction and response, and I’m glad to see that he’s going to give her her day in court… which is all she really wants,” said Hamood.

Baker is currently out of the state.  Her next court hearing is April 4, 2014.

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