Douglas W. Van Essen


Phone: (616) 988-5600

Doug Van Essen is a native of Grand Rapids, spending 13 years in the Grand Rapids Christian School System and then matriculating to and graduating from Calvin College in 1978 with a B.A. in political science. Doug received a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in 1981, the same year he was admitted to the Michigan Bar.

In the ensuing four decades, Doug has achieved prominence in the Midwest as a specialist in laws involving government relations. He has twice been appointed by the Michigan courts as lead class counsel in class action lawsuits involving the State of Michigan, each case involving more than $100 million in class claims, with both matters ending in representation of the class in the Michigan Supreme Court. He recovered more than $90 million in assets for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago in what was at the time the largest Ponzi Scheme in United States history. His defense of corporate officers under the federal solid waste statute, RCRA, led to his case being selected as the moot court case for first year students as the Vermont School of Law, which specializes in environmental law and he has represented municipalities in cost recovery and remedial actions against polluters, working with state and federal environmental regulators.

Doug has represented more judges in more types of proceedings than any other Michigan lawyer. He has defended judges in state and federal civil lawsuits; positively pursued funding lawsuits for judges across Michigan at all levels of the Michigan court system; and has successfully defended several judges in judicial tenure proceedings.

Through his advocacy and grant writing, he has secured over $35 million in state funding for multiple paper manufacturers, enabling those companies to install post-consumer paper cleaning and pulping equipment for their mills to enable recycling.

Doug has created over two dozen entities for communities throughout Michigan to facilitate 911 emergency services dispatch and has represented over 30 Michigan counties in public service administrative proceedings regarding telephone surcharges necessary to fund first responder activities.

Doug has successfully defended patrol and corrections officers in multiple federal jury trials that accused such officers of excessive force, false prosecution or deliberate indifference.

For his efforts, Doug has been rated “AV” by Martindale and Hubbell—its highest designation—for over 30 years and has been recognized as a Super Lawyer in public sector law and a Leading Lawyer in municipal law as well as appointed to permanent status in “Who’s Who in America.” He was elected to partner in two large Michigan law firms, and served on the management committee of each, leaving one to become a founding partner of Silver & Van Essen, P.C. in 2000.