Tom Girardi disbarred, court orders restitution of $2.3 million (1)

Disgraced attorney Tom Girardi was disbarred on Wednesday, with the California Supreme Court ordering the disgraced attorney to pay $2,282,507 plus 10% interest for funds stolen from clients.

The State Bar Court charged Girardi with 14 counts of violating ethics rules and California law for stealing millions of dollars from clients. Judges passed a state court order requiring it to pay $2 million to four minor children of the victims of the Lion Air Flight 610 crash. The court also demanded restitution from other clients, including a trustee in bankruptcy, Anthem Inc., Medicare and Garretson Resolution Group.

The court ordered $5,000 in penalties and state bar costs. Girardi, who by order of a state probate court “does not have the capacity to make health care decisions,” was placed on the bar association’s inactive roster in January. The disbarment strikes his name from the California Bar where he has been a member since 1965.

The award “may be collected by the state bar by any means permitted by law,” the court said.

The famous Southern California lawyer, who did not ask the court to participate in the case, is under conservatorship. The now defunct law firm Girardi Keese has been found in contempt for hiding millions of dollars from clients. Girardi declared bankruptcy shortly after admitting in court that he did not have the money he still owed clients.

“Thomas Girardi has caused significant and profound harm to many people and while his disbarment does not minimize those impacts, it is an acknowledgment of the people he victimized,” said the bar’s chief attorney, George Cardona, in an emailed statement. “As an agency, protecting the public is at the heart of our mission, and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that what happened does not happen again.”

The court’s decision follows a bar audit ordered by the legislature, which blamed the agency for decades of missteps that covered Girardi. The audit concluded that California’s Legal Profession Oversight System failed to adequately investigate attorneys “despite lengthy complaints against them.”

The California Bar oversees more than 250,000 licensed attorneys. California attorneys answer to the state Supreme Court, which licenses and disciplines attorneys, and the California Legislature, which oversees attorneys under the state’s Business and Professions Code.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tom Umberg called the Girardi debacle “an embarrassment to the profession.”

“To the credit of the bar in recent times they have taken steps in the right direction, but the bar, in my view, needs to focus like a laser on the discipline of lawyers, which the general public expects may the bar protect consumers from the kind of abuse that Tom Girardi’s victims suffered, twice,” Umberg (D) said in an interview.

The case is Girardi on Discipline, Calif., No. S273491, Recommended Discipline Imposed: Disbarred 06/01/22.

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