Calif. bar hires law firm to probe handling of Tom Girardi complaints

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Thomas Girardi. REUTERS/Irfan Khan

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  • Girardi, wife accused of misusing client settlement funds Girardi lawsuit inspired ‘Erin Brockovich’ movie

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(Reuters) – Attorney regulators in California on Monday said they have hired a law firm to investigate the state bar association’s handling of past complaints against prominent plaintiffs’ lawyer Thomas Girardi.

Girardi and his wife, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Jayne Girardi, have made legal headlines since December 2020, when a rival law firm accused them of using settlement funds meant for the families of victims of the 2018 Lion Air crash to bankroll a glitzy Hollywood lifestyle.

The California state bar has hired Halpern May Ybarra Gelberg, 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.

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Aaron May, one of the founding partners of Halpern May, declined to comment.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Girardi’s chummy relationship with state bar officials enabled him to maintain a clear disciplinary record despite past allegations of misconduct.

“We have been proactively doing everything in our power to learn from the past and do better in the future to prevent harms like this from recurring,” Duran said in Monday’s statement.

The state bar has accused Girardi, whose case against Pacific Gas & Electric Co that inspired the Oscar-winning film “Erin Brockovich,” of misappropriating money owed to clients in three cases. A bar tribunal earlier this month recommended his disbarment. The California Supreme Court has not ruled on the recommendation yet.

Girardi has not responded to the bar’s allegations and did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings. Girardi’s legal and personal affairs are handled by his brother and conservator, Robert. Robert Girardi did not respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys for Girardi and his defunct law firm Girardi Keese have acknowledged in federal court that $2 million in settlement funds in the Lion Air case were not distributed. An attorney for Erika Girardi said there’s nothing showing she received the funds.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that Erika, an entertainer with no law degree, had anything to do with the decisions and actions of Tom Girardi and Girardi Keese related to the Lion Air settlement money,” Evan Borges, a partner at Greenberg Gross, said in a statement.

The state bar said in June that it conducted a confidential audit of past complaints against Tom Girardi. Duran said the new investigation will also be confidential.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with comments from a lawyer for Erika Jayne Girardi and information about the law firm hired by the state bar.)

Read more:

Too little or too late, bar charges still needed against Girardi, experts say

California state bar pulls Tom Girardi’s law license, citing guardianship status

Tom Girardi and reality star wife sued for alleged theft of Lion Air settlement funds

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https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/calif-bar-hires-law-firm-probe-handling-tom-girardi-complaints-2022-01-24/

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