California bar opened 205 ethics matters about this lawyer, who wasn't disbarred until this year

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Tom Girardi

Lawyer Tom Girardi was disbarred in June. Photo by Sipa USA via the Associated Press.

The State Bar of California opened 205 disciplinary matters over four decades about lawyer Tom Girardi, who was disbarred in June after he was accused of failing to pay settlement funds to clients in three separate matters.

The State Bar of California said in a Nov. 3 open letter that 120 of the disciplinary matters involved client trust account violations, while others “involved various allegations ranging from failure to communicate with clients to failure to perform, as well as misrepresentations to courts and clients, among others.”

Law360 and Reuters have coverage.

Sixty of the disciplinary matters were closed at intake, 61 were closed at investigation, four were closed at the prefiling stage, 13 were closed with nonpublic measures, three led to disbarment, and 64 were closed because of disbarment.

The bar’s client security fund has paid more than $1.1 million to Girardi victims while pending applications seek an additional $1.48 million, Bloomberg Law reports.

Girardi’s estranged wife is Erika Girardi of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reality TV show.

The bar is investigating whether the bar’s handling of matters involving Girardi were affected by his bar connections or relationships, according to the open letter signed by Ruben Duran, chair of the State Bar of California’s board of trustees.

A federal judge had frozen the assets of Girardi and his law firm after a lawsuit accused the trial lawyer of keeping money intended to benefit clients who lost loved ones in the in October 2018 crash of Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610.

Creditors forced Girardi and his law firm into bankruptcy in December 2020. Sixty-nine complaints were filed after the bankruptcy petition, while 136 were filed before.

Duran acknowledged that disciplinary failures contributed to a lack of confidence in the bar’s ability to protect clients. Several steps are being taken in response, his letter said.

Those steps include creation of a new client trust account protection program that requires lawyers to report information about all their client trust accounts, new tools to identify patterns of complaints, and new policies that limit nonpublic measures to close cases.

See also: “Litigation lenders bankrolled Tom Girardi despite his apparent ‘proclivities’ for stealing from clients, suit says”

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