SINGAPORE, May 19 — An entertainment lawyer who physically and verbally abused his employees has been struck off the roll yesterday (May 18) after the Court of Three Judges found that he showed a pattern of “intemperate and boorish behaviour”.
Samuel Seow Theng Beng's eight instances of misconduct against his employees in just a month showed not simply a lapse of judgement but reflected a sustained pattern of offensive conduct, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said in delivering the judgment on behalf of the court.
“We are therefore satisfied that the respondent’s conduct demonstrates a character defect rendering the solicitor unfit to be a member of the legal profession,” he said, adding that Seow's conduct has brought “grave dishonour” to the profession.
Seow, a lawyer of 20 years, is managing director of Samuel Seow Law Corporation and is well-known in the entertainment scene here for representing performing artistes including former actress Michelle Saram and singer-songwriter Tanya Chua in legal cases.
He also owned and managed talent management company Beam Artistes at the time of the incident. Both firms shared the same office.
The Court of Three Judges is the highest disciplinary body to deal with lawyers' misconduct. Its latest decision means that Seow will not be allowed to practise as an advocate or a solicitor in Singapore.
In yesterday’s ruling, Chief Justice Menon said that in cases of misconduct not involving dishonesty or conflicts of interest, the court should consider two things.
First, whether the misconduct attested to any character defects that makes the lawyer unfit to be a member of the legal profession.
Second, whether the lawyer's misconduct causes grave dishonour to the standing of the legal profession.
In Seow’s case, the answer to both questions was “yes”, so striking his name off the roll was an appropriate punishment.
Chief Justice Menon noted that Seow’s behaviour was egregious and involved protracted instances of physical and verbal abuse and extreme threats — in particular, when he threatened to take a knife to kill his employee.
What happened In 2018, an audio clip of Seow assaulting his niece in his office went viral online. A year later, a video of the assault, which was taken from the firm’s surveillance cameras, was uploaded to YouTube.
The Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) brought eight charges of misconduct against Seow and a disciplinary tribunal heard the matter in late 2019. The eight instances occurred in a one-month period from March 16 to April 17 in 2018.
One of the charges was for voluntarily causing hurt to Brenda Kong Shin Ying, his niece and an associate at his law firm, by grabbing her arms, pushing her against a table, repeatedly slapping her, jabbing her forehead with his finger, pushing her until she fell and screaming at her.
Another charge was for pushing his law firm’s secretary and conveyancing executive Serene Tan Tzuu Yen until she fell to the floor as well as aggressively berating and screaming at her.
Other charges included throwing objects such as a metal stapler in the direction of Rachel Kang Pei Shan, an employee of Beam Artistes, and threatening to take a knife to kill her. Seow initially pleaded guilty to half of the charges while contesting the remaining ones. But in November 2019, he pleaded guilty to the remaining charges.
The disciplinary tribunal issued its report in March 2020 and found that there was sufficient seriousness for disciplinary action to be taken. LawSoc then applied for Seow to be sanctioned under the Legal Profession Act.
In a statement issued after the hearing, LawSoc's president Adrian Tan said that the society expects each of its members to act with honour and integrity at all times.
“This includes, not just how lawyers behave in court, but also how they behave to their colleagues and to subordinates at the office.
“Senior lawyers, in particular, hold positions of authority, and must exhibit a greater degree of decorum and professionalism.” Tan added that Seow's abusing of his employees “discredits him and discredits the profession”.
“So long as he remains a member of the profession, it continues to undermine the standing of the profession. That is why the Law Society took the action that it did.” “Everyone who works in a law firm must feel safe. There must be a culture that promotes mental wellness and security. The Law Society will continue to promote such values as a matter of priority.” Seow’s case was heard on Feb 28 this year by the Court of Three Judges, comprising Chief Justice Menon, Justice Andrew Phang and Justice Steven Chong. They had earlier reserved judgement.
Separately, in July last year, Seow pleaded guilty to criminal charges that were brought against him. His criminal cases are still pending before the courts. ― TODAY