The State Bar is asking a judge to order a “confidential witness” to testify and produce documents in connection with an internal investigation into whether its own employees may have assisted troubled former attorney Thomas Girardi in escaping discipline over the years.

Girardi was disbarred earlier this year by the state Supreme Court and ordered to pay $2.28 million, plus 10% interest, for funds allegedly stolen from clients.

The State Bar on Jan. 10 had recommended that Girardi’s law license be taken away, in large part for allegedly misappropriating nearly $2 million that belonged to the minor children of air crash victims.

The only other discipline Girardi received was a private reproval in 1999. The State Bar has hired the law firm of Halpern May Ybarra Gelberg LLP to find out why.

Because the investigation involves the handling of complaints by State Bar employees, including attorneys within the Office of Chief Trial Counsel, the chief trial counsel was recused from conducting the probe, according to the State Bar petition filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

During the investigation, Aaron M. May of Halpern May found that a “confidential witness” likely has relevant information and so he issued a subpoena on July 11 directing the person to appear for an Aug. 11 deposition and bring the requested documents.

May cited authority for the subpoena power to an attorney for the witness, but the lawyer, without challenging the law given, argued it was barred on other grounds and the witness did not appear, according to the State Bar’s court papers.

“It is not disputed that confidential witness was served the subpoena or that he or she refused to comply with the subpoena,” State Bar attorneys state in their court papers. “As such, confidential witness is in contempt of the State Bar pursuant to (the state California Business and Professions Code.)”

The State Bar is asking a judge to issue an order to show cause directing the “confidential witness” to appear before the court at a specified date and explain why the person has not attended, testified or produced the documents per the subpoena. Both sides are “generally available” for a hearing Oct. 28, according to State Bar lawyers.

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