California Superior Court Judge Accused of Theft from the Elderly

Criminal charges can be levied at anyone, including those working within the justice system itself. For example, earlier this month The Recorder reported on the arrest of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Seeman on suspicion of theft from the elderly and eleven counts of perjury. According to the story, Seeman, as fiduciary for the estate of then-94 year old widow Anne Nutting of Berkeley, California, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The allegations came to light in 2007 when Nutting hired California probate attorney Howard Abelson, to reorganize her estate and revoke the power of attorney she’d given to Seeman. According to Abelson, he became concerned with Seeman’s attempts to execute agreements naming Seeman as the beneficiary of Nutting’s estate and that Seeman had put some of Nutting’s banking accounts under his own name. In 2010, Abelson reported his concerns to the Berkeley Police Department.

Kathleen Boyovich, a district attorney inspector in charge of the investigation, averred in a search warrant affidavit that Seeman “stood in a position of trust” with Nutting, and “having sole care, custody and control of Anne Nutting’s financial accounts” embezzled “in excess of $265,000.”

Financial Elder Abuse Charges In California
If the allegations against Seeman prove accurate, he will likely be charged under the California Penal Code Sections 368(d) and/or 368(e) with financial elder abuse. Financial elder abuse is defined as “financial” crime, such as theft, fraud, or embezzlement, involving property belonging to an elderly person, i.e. one who is over 65 years old, when the alleged offender was either the caregiver for the elder or knew or reasonably should have known that the individual was an elder.

Penalties For Financial Elder Abuse
The penalty for financial elder abuse is dependent on the value of property involved in the offense. If the value of the property is $950 or less, the offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one-year in jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. If the value of the property is more than $950, the offense is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Additional Consequences
In addition to criminal penalties Seeman will also face inquiries by the California Commission on Judicial Performance and the State Bar. As discussed in a previous article, each state has certain rules of ethics which judges, like Seeman, are bound to follow. California’s judiciary is governed by the California Code of Judicial Ethics (“CCJE”). Under the CCJE, a judge will automatically be removed from his position without pay following a preliminary hearing in a criminal case and persists throughout the criminal proceedings. If the judge is found guilty of the charges, he or she will be removed from the bench permanently.

Orange County criminal defense attorney Lauren K. Johnson has extensive experience protecting the rights of the accused, including those accused of elder abuse and financial crimes. If you have questions regarding California’s criminal law or your rights, contact attorney Lauren K. Johnson today.