Bloomberg Law
March 16, 2023, 11:09 PM

State Bar of California Notes Major Increase in Filed Complaints

David McAfee
David McAfee
Staff Correspondent

The State Bar of California said Thursday that it has recorded a potentially unprecedented and still unexplained boost in bar complaints, or grievances against attorneys, in recent months.

State Bar Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona, who was confirmed to the post in June, said during a presentation at a Board of Trustees meeting that complaints have increased from last quarter to January at “rates not seen in any previous years, even going back to 2019 before the pandemic.” The news comes as the bar faces criticism that it turned a blind eye to high-profile rule violators like Thomas Girardi.

Cardona further said that, while it is too early to draw conclusions about the bump in filed complaints, the trend isn’t limited to any particular area. The bar is seeing “more complaints kind of across the range of what we get,” he said.

Cardona refused to offer a guess about the origin of the increase in filings.

“It’s not clear and I think we’re going to have to wait and see, probably another six months or so, to see whether this is just basically pent up,” Cardona said in an update to the board. “In other words, people during the pandemic for whatever reason didn’t file complaints, and now we’re getting some backlog of complaints, or whether this is an ongoing trend for the future.”

The bar is anticipating just about 18,000 complaints and reportable actions this year, which is the most since 2019 when the bar opened up an online portal for complaints, according to the chief trial counsel’s trustee update.

The bar’s report shows it had 1,579 complaints in July 2022, and 1,680 in August. The most recent data shows 1,181 complaints in January and 1,362 in December, according to the presentation.

Representatives for the bar declined to comment.

— With assistance from Joyce E. Cutler

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