Usually when we talk about judges in the United States, we give them a pass on the old saying, “judge not, lest you be judged,” seeing as judging is kind of their job and whatnot.
As of last night, our Judge of the Day was languishing in a cell in the district he used to preside over. Where did the veteran jurist, who had long worked in juvenile justice, go wrong?
The San Francisco Chronicle tells the story of Judge Paul Seeman:
Alameda County Judge Paul Seeman may have had good intentions when he offered to help the couple that lived across the street from him in Berkeley — an elderly pair with no family, no friends and a home made uninhabitable by years of hoarding.
But whatever his initial purpose, his actions turned criminal, authorities said Thursday after charging him with elder financial abuse and taking him into custody at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse where he presides in downtown Oakland.
After a two-year investigation, Berkeley police said Seeman, 57, stole thousands of dollars from his neighbor Anne Nutting after her husband died in 1999 at age 90, sold off her art and other possessions, tried to bar her from her own home, and used her garage to store his beloved 1957 Ford Thunderbird.
Judge Seeman, a graduate of Boalt Hall, is charged one count of elder theft and 11 counts of perjury. He presided at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland, which I mentioned (although not by name) in a post about jury duty earlier today.
There are a lot of interesting aspects to this story, several of which have nothing to do with the case itself. To wit, his name is Judge Seeman. ::snickers::
Less immaturely, the elderly couple’s house was deemed uninhabitable because of their hoarding. That is insane. How much crap would you have to have piled up so that you literally can’t live there anymore? Even for older people, that’s a lot of junk.
The article quotes a few residents from the neighborhood were shocked to hear the allegations against their neighbor, who is apparently well-liked:
A neighbor, Eve Howard, expressed shock at the allegations, saying, “Paul is a great man, just a great guy, a great neighbor. On a scale of 1 to 10, would I ever have thought this, seen this, felt this could be the case? I’d give it absolutely zero.”
Another one of the judge’s neighbors appeared to be less shocked and more in disbelief:
Another neighbor, Anne Nesbet, agreed, saying, “Paul is a saint in this. I’m absolutely, 1,000 percent sure that Paul is on the side of the angels. He’s the best man in the world.”
I’m 40 percent sure the neighbor doesn’t really understand percentages, but at the same time, her optimism seems like it might be misguided. Prosecutors spent two years investigating the judge, and authorities are holding him on $525,000 bail. (For context, that’s more than three times higher than George Zimmerman’s bail.)
The article goes on to list the sordid details of the charges, which include allegedly shady sales of Nutting’s art collection, improper financial reporting of the property she owned, and putting his name on several of her financial accounts.
It’s too bad that the judge’s good intentions allegedly turned so wrong. But, to quote another phrase, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Alameda County judge charged with elder theft [San Francisco Chronicle]