Attorney regulators said Monday they are conducting a probe into whether the State Bar of California’s handling of past complaints against prominent plaintiffs’ lawyer Tom Girardi were compromised by his connections at the agency.
Girardi, 82, was charged with numerous violations of the bar’s rules of professional conduct in three separate matters, including several acts of moral turpitude. He did not file a response to the notice of disciplinary charges and his default was entered Aug. 6.
He was recommended for disbarment on Jan. 10.
The state bar has hired a Los Angeles-based litigation firm to assess “whether intentional wrongdoing by anyone associated with the State bar may have influenced how complaints against Girardi were handled,” Ruben Duran, chair of the bar’s board of trustees, said in a statement Monday.
Girardi has been on inactive status since March 9. A State Bar representative said the agency is also expediting processing reimbursements from a client security fund on claims from victims of Girardi’s alleged actions and to date, which to date amounts to more than $335,000 .
Last July, a petition for conservatorship was filed regarding Girardi. The court papers stated the attorney has “major neurocognitive disorder” and lacks the capacity to give informed consent for medical treatment.
Girardi’s longtime Wilshire Boulevard law firm, Girardi & Keese, collapsed amid numerous allegations that he misappropriated millions of dollars of money belonging to its clients and failed to pay creditors.
In December 2020, a federal judge in Chicago froze Girardi’s assets, finding he had misappropriated at least $2 million in client funds that were due to families of people killed in a plane crash in Indonesia.
Girardi also is involved in divorce proceedings with “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member Erika Jayne, to whom he has been married since 1999. He has appeared alongside his wife on her Bravo series on several occasions.
Girardi in 1970 became the first attorney in California to win a $1 million-plus award in a medical malpractice case, and is known for a landmark case against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. over contaminated water in the desert community of Hinkley, which was the inspiration for the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich.”
Girardi was the lead plaintiff’s attorney when the Los Angeles Dodgers were found partially liable in July 2014 in the 2011 Dodger Stadium parking lot beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow, who was awarded nearly $18 million in damages.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury found former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt not negligent, while the two men who attacked Stow were found to have most of the responsibility for the harm that came to the former Northern California paramedic.