Disgraced attorney Tom Girardi’s files can be released to the public under a new state bar-backed legal interpretation the California Supreme Court approved Wednesday.
Justices during their weekly meeting agreed with the California State Bar’s conclusion that the law allows releasing records linked to a closed investigation, a reading the bar said “would be more consistent with its current understanding of its public protection mission and policy of transparency.”
The Los Angeles Times had sued the bar, arguing that without information about how the agency handled, or mishandled, years of complaints about Girardi, “the public cannot hold the Bar accountable, and will be stymied in any attempt to evaluate the ‘reforms’ that the Bar publicly has touted in the wake of the Girardi scandal.”
Consistent with the bar’s representations, the high court said, “we expect that it will disclose the information referred therein to the petitioner as soon as possible,” and no later than Nov. 7. The parties were directed to meet promptly after thet and tell the court of their positions on the issue of the scale of what will be made public.
“The parties should attach or otherwise file copies of the disclosures made by the State Bar insofar as the parties disagree about the scope of the disclosures,” the court said.
Justice Leondra R. Kruger was recused and didn’t participate.
The justices had earlier ordered the bar to show whether waiving confidentiality is in the best interests of the public. California Business & Professions Code Section 6068.1 (b)(2) permits the bar’s chief trial counsel or bar chair to waive confidentiality, “but only when warranted for protection of the public.”
The high court’s action is the latest chapter in the long-running Girardi saga. The California Supreme Court in June disbarred Girardi after a bar investigation found he had stolen millions from clients. Girardi and the now-defunct Girardi Keese were forced into involuntary bankruptcy in December 2020.
Edelson PC, Girardi’s Chicago counsel in the Lion Air crash victims’ lawsuit against Boeing, filed a racketeering lawsuit against Girardi and attorneys at the firm. The firm also sued Girardi in Illinois federal court over millions in fees it alleges the Southern California attorneys stole.
Edelson, while applauding the bar’s clarification of the law, wants the agency to release records on current investigations involving other Girardi actors, including former attorneys at the firm who continue to practice law.
“But we’re concerned that this decision is—consistent with the Bar’s prior conduct—cabined in a way that keeps the focus narrowly on Tom and lets many other wrongdoers off the hook,” attorney Jay Edelson said in an Oct. 13 letter to the bar.
State Bar General Counsel Ellin Davtyan in a statement said the agency “will proceed with disclosing the information as allowed under the law (B&P Code Section 6086.1(b)(2)) by no later than Nov. 7. Following the disclosure, we look forward to meeting and conferring with the Los Angeles Times.”
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP represents the Los Angeles Times. The State Bar Office of General Counsel. Wagstaffe, von Loewenfeldt, Busch & Radwick LLP represent the bar.
The case is Los Angeles Times Communications v. State Bar of California (Girardi), Cal., No. S269401, 10/26/22.
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