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Tom Girardi Disbarred, Court Orders $2.3 Million Restitution (1)

June 1, 2022, 10:15 PMUpdated: June 1, 2022, 10:39 PM

Disgraced attorney Tom Girardi was disbarred Wednesday, with the California Supreme Court ordering the fallen 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. Justices adopted a State Bar court order requiring him to pay $2 million to four minor children of Lion Air flight 610 crash victims. The court also required restitution to other clients, including a bankruptcy trustee, Anthem Inc., Medicare, and Garretson Resolution Group.

The court ordered $5,000 in sanctions and State Bar court costs. Girardi,who according to a state probate court’s order “lacks capacity to make health-care decisions,” was placed on the bar’s inactive roll in January. The disbarment strikes his name from the California Bar where he’s been a member since 1965.

The award “may be collected by the State Bar through any means permitted by law,” the court said.

The famed Southern California attorney, who failed to ask the court to participate in the case, is under conservatorship. The now defunct law firm Girardi Keese was found in contempt for keeping millions of dollars from clients. Girardi declared bankruptcy not long after admitting to the court that he didn’t have the money he still owed the clients.

“Thomas Girardi has done significant and profound harm to many and while his disbarment does not minimize those impacts, it is an acknowledgement of the people he victimized,” Bar Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona said in an emailed statement. “As an agency, public protection is at the core of our mission, and we are taking the necessary steps to ensure what occurred does not happen again.”

The court’s ruling follows a legislature-ordered state audit of the bar, which faulted the agency for decades of missteps that provided cover for Girardi. The audit held that the California’s system for overseeing the legal profession failed to adequately investigate attorneys “despite lengthy patterns of 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 lawyers, and to the California Legislature, which oversees lawyers under the state Business and Professions Code.

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

“To the bar’s credit of late they’ve taken steps in the right direction, but the bar from my perspective needs to focus like a laser on attorneys’ discipline, that the general public expects the bar to 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, Cal., No. S273491, recommended discipline imposed: disbarred 6/1/22.

(Added quotes from Sen. Tom Umberg in 9th and 10th paragraphs)

To contact the reporter on this story: Joyce E. Cutler in San Francisco at jcutler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Carmen Castro-Pagán at ccastro-pagan@bloomberglaw.com