Legal Ethics

Judge accused of stealing elderly neighbor's $1.6M life savings resigns from bench


A California judge who is facing a 32-count case concerning his alleged theft of a now-deceased elderly neighbor’s life savings of $1.6 million or more has voluntarily stepped down from the Alameda County Superior Court bench.

Judge Paul Seeman agreed to resign Thursday and never seek to serve on the state court bench again in exchange for an agreement that the Commission on Judicial Performance would defer its ethics investigation of him, the Oakland Tribune reports.

Ordinarily, the commission waits for a criminal case to conclude before launching an investigation, the newspaper notes. However, his lawyer says Seeman’s resignation allows court administrators to appoint a new judge to help handle a challenging caseload in the Oakland courthouse.

“Judge Seeman has had a distinguished career and he felt that this was an appropriate action to take at this time for the good of the court,” said his lawyer, Kathleen Ewins, in a written statement.

Seeman, who had been hearing misdemeanor arraignments, was reassigned to a small-claims call in a small courthouse in Pleasanton after he was arrested in his Oakland courthouse chambers in June. Some news reports say he was later suspended but continued to receive his salary until his resignation today.

He is accused in the ongoing criminal case of having used a durable power of attorney over a 13-year period, to gain control of Anne Nutting’s assets. He reportedly offered the woman, and her husband, who predeceased her in 1999, his help in 1998, after they were banned from their home due to hoarding issues. The situation came to the attention of Berkeley authorities after he took a bad fall, according to KTVU.

A court filing by police says Seeman had obtained control of virtually all of Nutting’s financial holdings by 2004, putting her accounts—worth more than $2 million—in his name and selling property including an art collection. Nutting died in 2010 at age 97.

A lawyer approached by Nutting and told of her concerns about Seeman told police of the issues she raised, the El Cerrito Patch reported.

Initially charged with elder theft and 11 counts of perjury, all felonies, Seeman faces another 20 counts in an amended complaint filed by the district attorney earlier this month. It is not clear from news coverage exactly what the new counts say, but the Tribune says at least most of them are new charges concerning the same alleged facts underlying the earlier charges.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “California Judge Is Accused of Stealing $1.6M from Elderly Neighbor; Suspicious Lawyer Notified Cops”

ABAJournal.com: “Calif. Judge Charged in $1.6M Elder Theft Case Remains on Bench, But Now Hears Small Claims Cases”

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