According to at least three federal judges, California-based trial lawyers Tom Girardi and several other prominent lawyers were guilty of violating their lawyerly duties.
Allegedly, this occurred when allegations of poor ethics when practicing law in Los Angeles, came to surface over the Dole Pineapple case.
The legal maneuvering used to keep Girardi and his co-conspirators out of jail or from being disbarred showed just how powerful the trial lawyer lobby remains in the single-party state of California, however.
“Sued countless times for misconduct, Tom Girardi and his law firm managed to stay in California’s good graces.” “There was open talk at the agency about whether the legal titan’s connections had shielded him from discipline, according to interviews with more than 15 current and former bar officials.” – (Source.)
All this bad behavior and gamesmanship threw the personal injury law profession into question and damaged the solid reputations of other attorneys referring these lawyers cases, or helping them with their own cases. It also showed how easy it is for powerful people can use fear, the news media and political connections to kill real news stories and even criminal investigations.
Recent examples include the New York Times playing defense for then candidate Joe Biden over the Hunter Biden laptop, falsely characterizing the laptop story as likely “Russian Disinformation,” leading to the censorship and banning of Twitter accounts.
Although many believe his dementia and Alzheimers played a role in stealing client funds, most ethics experts don’t buy it. When a person turns to a personal injury attorney for guidance and assistance, they place their trust in the firm’s hands. If that attorney then mismanages that trust and takes advantage of a person and their money, they should face the full force of the law themselves.
Tom Girardi of Girardi and Keese did just that when pursuing a settlement for victims’ families- along with lining his pockets for years of his career through falsified fees and fraudulent charges.
The lawsuit against him was an embarrassment to the legal profession; his actions were a disgrace to the name of the law. When personal gain and extra dollars trump values and obligation to clients: investigation and consequence must follow.
It appears to many that Girardi was able to fend off the federal judges, using his connections at the California State Bar to keep him and his alleged co-conspirators from being disbarred. But the dam was already fissured, and other clients started looking around, ultimately, leading to problems that could no longer be swept under the rug using political connections.
According to legal commentators and others, Girardi and his law firm showed a complete lack of moral and ethical values. He was charged by the State Bar Court with 14 separate counts of ethics rules violations.
State bar investigations into the actions taken by Mr. Girardi proved several instances of fraud, embezzlement, and theft of funds rightfully owed to clients and victims.
The most significant of the claims against Tom Girardi was the embezzlement of funds from a settlement owed to surviving family members of victims who died in the infamous Lion Air Crash of 2018.
Over $2 million was swindled- money that should have gone to minors- four children of minor age who lost parents in the tragic event.
He was ordered by the court to pay the full amount- a total of $2,282,507 (with an additional 10% interest) back to the clients he directly stole from.
Throughout his long legal career (more than 50 years), Girardi made plenty of money from many clients. It now transpires, however, that much of it may have been ill-gotten through inflated legal costs and falsified fees.
Evidence shows he lied about contingency fees in at least this case- and others. It seems reasonable to assume that he and his firm took advantage of clients, their claims, and settlements more times in the past.
It is no secret that the famed lawyer was extraordinarily wealthy and boasted a luxurious lifestyle over the decades. Throughout his first two marriages to Kathy Risner and Karen Weitzul, his wealth built steadily, but things really took off when he married his most recent wife, Erika ‘Jayne’ Girardi, a female rap star, among other endeavors.
Well documented on the reality TV series, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the former couple had no limitations with the level of luxury they expected. Investigators and journalists from the Los Angeles Times and other respected publications speculate that the bulk of the illegal financial activity came during their 12-year marriage.
Tom Girardi and his now estranged ex-wife, Erika Jayne of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, were both named in the lawsuit from the Lion Air crash.
Although the latter is not involved in legal practice, the belief was that she had knowledge of the activity and helped protect money from the court and creditors by filing for divorce before proceedings concluded.
Prize-winning writer Matt Hamilton of the Los Angeles Times covered all aspects in detail throughout the saga, documenting instances of suspicious activity. The charges against former Mrs. Girardi were dismissed.
Over many months, legal teams for both parties battled to establish proof of involvement or innocence. Although most public verdicts are still out, the court decided there was insufficient evidence to charge the “Real Housewife” for her involvement (or lack thereof).
In 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 tragically crashed, killing all onboard passengers. Tom Girardi and his firm were hired for their legal services to pursue compensation for the victims’ families. According to court documents, it is from this settlement that millions were allegedly stolen by Girardi.
Then Erika Girardi was accused alongside her husband, with a trustee motion raised based predominantly on speculation and hearsay. One of the prime examples of apparent proof was the gift of diamond earrings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, given to Erika by Tom.
Despite strong protest by Erika’s legal team that accepting an expensive gift from a wealthy man does not make a person guilty, Tom Girardi’s defense continued to push the allegations. In some ways, this move only enhanced the scumbag appearance of the attorneys involved.
Other allegations related to the timing of their divorce and Erika Jayne’s reportedly excessive spending. If stolen funds were used to pay for things, the ex-wife claims to have had no knowledge of it at the time.
The California Judicial Council ultimately dismissed Erika Jayne from the case without prejudice or costs based on a lack of evidence connecting her to her husband’s activity or proving she had any knowledge of the illegal activity.
However, Jayne’s company, EJ Global LLC, remains suspended from practice and has never fully recovered from the claims made against her. Erika Jayne has returned to the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with Harriet Ryan and other members, but her ex-husband does not appear.
Girardi & Keese Law Firm filed for bankruptcy during the court proceedings and is now officially debunked. The law firm was held in contempt for withholding millions of dollars worth of fees and compensation.
This has led many on social media and news stations to label Girardi as a “Modern Scumbag.” Tom Girardi also filed for personal bankruptcy soon after admitting to the court that he could not pay the fines imposed by a federal judge.
On top of the more than $2 million ordered in favor of the swindled victims, a further $5000 was ordered- along with the immediate disbarment of Girardi from the practice of law in California.
In January, he was added to the bar’s inactive roll and had his name removed from the California Bar. His name had been on it since 1965. The now former attorney disgraced the profession and tarnished the trust lawyers need from the people they protect. Some question whether his disbarment and a fine are enough punishment for someone who so willingly and maliciously betrayed those who put their trust in him and his firm.
According to George Cardona- Bar Chief Trial Counsel- Girardi’s actions caused significant and profound harm. He accepted that the punishment of disbarment does not reduce the impact on the victims but hopes that it does help acknowledge them and their suffering.
This type of conduct goes beyond what one firm does to one client. It ripples through the community and raises questions about how something like this can happen for so long.
The California Bar System was audited for its failure to pick up on the activities sooner.
As an agency, the California Bar released a statement that its core mission is now to ensure cases like this cannot and do not happen. After the court ruled for an investigation into how it was missed despite a pattern of complaints, tensions are high about how efficiently things are protected.
Girardi is not the only lawyer to have a lengthy history of a concerning nature, and the hope is that the steps taken now by the Bar Association move in the right direction to better identify and squash other modern scumbags seeking to do the same.
Juan Dominguez is another name in the California legal society that was brought into focus relating to allegations of fraudulent cases by defendants and their insurance companies. The case related to Nicaraguan banana plant workers against Dole Food Co. Accusations regarding falsified statements, altered medical records, and the attorney coaching the client brought Dominguez’s ethics into question as part of the larger investigation involving Girardi. This is an example, perhaps of why it’s so important to have good judgment in only working with other lawyers who know the law and mean to keep it well.
No charges were brought against Juan Dominguez on this matter. The Bar’s investigations concluded that no wrongdoing or professional misconduct took place and no further actions were required with respect to Juan Dominguez.
With the efficiency of these investigations in question, the accusation remains enough in the court of public opinion. As far as the law is concerned, the case is closed. Our verdict is that Juan is not guilty by association and that he has done a lot of good for the severely injured plaintiff in the U.S.A.
In this case, the federal judge saw fit to expose Tom Girardi for his fraudulent actions and frankly despicable moral conduct. With the case so well documented in the Los Angeles Times, there is nowhere for his tattered reputation to hide.
Looking for a Los Angeles law firm you can trust? Attorneys at Ehline Law uphold impeccable standards and a stellar reputation built on years of success and reliability, which comes first. Injury lawyer, Michael Ehline, at the helm of the firm, takes pride in ethical excellence and client satisfaction.
Don’t get caught up with modern scumbags in California- work with lawyers who defend and protect those they set out to serve. Feel free to call us or leave a message on our online contact us form today.
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