Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Seeman, arrested yesterday and charged with bilking an elderly neighbor out of more than $1.5 million, made his first court appearance at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse today as a defendant.
Judge Eric Labowitz, a visiting judge from Mendocino County, agreed to a continuance: Seeman's arraignment will take place on July 3. He faces 13 felony counts of theft, embezzlement and perjury involving former Santa Barbara Road neighbor Anne Nutting, who died in 2010 at 97.
Labowitz denied a request by news media to bring cameras into the courtroom.
Wearing a charcoal brown suit, Seeman, 57, walked into court and sat quietly in the spectators’ gallery just moments before Labowitz called his case, then walked out the door moments later with defense attorney Michael Markowitz.
A spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office called the charges "disappointing and disturbing."
Prosecutors say that after the death of Nutting's husband, Seeman took over power of attorney, selling two of the couple's Santa Cruz properties, an art collection, a Lionel train set and other valuables. They also say he borrowed $250,000 from her -- then failed to pay off the loan.
Seeman also stands accused of failing to report income from the loan and real estate investments to the Fair Political Practices Commission, which judges are required by law to do.
Seeman is still listed in the courthouse directory as the presiding judge in Department 107, but he is unlikely to hear a case again anytime soon. He was taken from the Alameda County district attorney's office on the second floor of the Wiley Courthouse around 3 p.m. Thursday by two women, at least one of whom wore a badge on her belt. Seeman was wearing a gray suit, and his hands were handcuffed behind his back. His suit jacket was draped over the cuffs. He was taken to the Glenn Dyer Jail, where his bail was set at $525,000.
Neither Seeman nor Markowitz would comment or answer questions.
The more than 30 Occupy Oakland advocates, some of whom Seeman had ordered to stay away from Frank Ogawa Plaza or UC Berkeley, recognized the white-haired jurist immediately, and jeered loudly as he and Markowitz walked down Washington Street away from the courthouse.
The judge drew criticism from Occupy Cal demonstrators when he issued stay-away orders during pre-arraignment hearings to 12 linked to Nov. 9 UC Berkeley campus protests.
In March, he ordered four to stay away from UC Berkeley.
"He ordered me to stay away from (Frank Ogawa Plaza), and I wasn't anywhere near there, which violates my civil rights," said Christopher Moreland.
"He set extraordinarily high bail for the Occupiers," said Boots Riley, a supporter whose father, Walter Riley, has represented a number of the defendants. ""He said the cases are going to be heard by a higher court anyway, so he'll just go with whatever the D.A. recommends."
Seeman was named to the bench by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009.
Seeman served as a court commissioner for the Alameda County Superior Court since 2004. He had previously served as a referee pro tem for the county’s Juvenile Court between 1991 and 2004. From 1990 to 1991, Seeman worked as a deputy county counsel for the Alameda County Counsel’s Office and before that he was in private practice.
A newspaper article from 2009 announcing Seeman's appointment to the superior court bench gave his residence as Berkeley. Before becoming a judge, he had an office on Kittredge Street in downtown Berkeley. He graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law and was admitted to the State Bar in 1980.