Tragic Death of Tot After Hard-Fought Custody Case Leads to Call for Disbarment of Dad's Lawyer Sib
Stunned by the recent death of a 2-year-old girl at the center of a hard-fought California custody case, observers wondered what might have been done differently to prevent the tragedy. Although the case is still being investigated, news reports indicate Madeline Layla Samaan-Fay likely died as a result of a murder-suicide by her father, Mourad “Moni” Samaan, 49. Their bodies were found over the weekend.
The deaths, which may have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning while the two were in a sports utility vehicle, followed an award of custody to the girl’s mother, Marcia Ann Fay. She is well-known as a deputy to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, recounts the Capitol Weekly.
Following news of the deaths, Samaan’s father and brother reportedly blamed what they called a corrupt court system for the custody award. But it was additional comments made by the brother, who is an attorney, that provided an unusual focus for public outrage. In a television interview with Fox News, lawyer Nabil Samaan, who apparently did not have a role as an attorney in the custody case, implied that his brother had acted appropriately.
“I think he did the right thing. I’m proud of him,” Nabil Samaan said, prompting the network’s reporter to ask him what he meant. Replied Samaan: “I think justice was done.”
Late yesterday, the Center for Judicial Excellence filed a complaint with the State Bar of California asking that it consider lifting Samaan’s law license over the comments he made concerning the child’s death. They demonstrate both a lack of requisite moral character needed to work as a lawyer and conflict with an ethical obligation to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States, the CJE contends.
However, lawyers who regularly defend other lawyers in ethics cases tell the Capitol Weekly that Samaan’s comments aren’t likely to result in his disbarment, or, it appears, even lesser legal discipline:
While in “incredibly bad taste,” Samaan’s comments probably would be considered constitutionally protected free speech, said attorney Jerome Fiskin of Fiskin Slater. Although Samaan probably won’t be disciplined for making the statements, they’re likely to have an adverse affect on his law practice and discourage potential clients from retaining him, Fiskin notes.
Another lawyer points out that Samaan’s anguish over his brother’s death likely would excuse any rash statements he made immediately afterward.
The Sacramento Bee details the twists and turns in the custody case and a Sacramento Bee opinion piece points out the obvious:
Whatever problems may or may not have existed in this family or the court that handled the custody case, there can be no possible justification for taking the life of an innocent child.
Fay, 46, declined the Bee’s requests for comment.
Sacramento Bee: “Slain girl’s grandfather says court system pushed his son over the edge”