By Robert J. Hansen
LOS ANGELES, CA – A class action lawsuit has been filed by former clients of embattled plaintiff attorney Thomas Girardi against the California State Bar, arguing the agency’s “incestuous relationship” with the now-disbarred attorney allowed him to steal millions of dollars from clients.
Ana and Arturo Agaton’s son died of a brain tumor at age six from exposure to excessive levels of hexavalent chromium released into the air where he lived in Riverside, CA., according to the lawsuit.
Arturo Jr.’s death was linked to a cement company, TXI Industries, which had been emitting excessive levels of chromium for six years. The Agatons hired Girardi who won the lawsuit in 2015, settling for $31 million, the lawsuit maintains, noting the Agatons never received their share of the $31 million settlement Girardi Keese negotiated with TXI Industries in 2015.
The Agatons’ suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and first reported by ABC News last week, accused the state bar of “shielding and protecting Girardi and Girardi Keese” from discipline despite fielding dozens of ethical complaints about the indicted lawyer dating back decades.
“This case exposes the rampant corruption at the State Bar of California and targets the incestuous relationship between Tom Girardi and the Girardi Keese law firm on the one hand, and the State Bar of California and its employees and staff on the other hand,” the complaint read.
The suit includes more details from several cases revealed in internal reports released by State Bar trustees showing Girardi showered former agency board members and employees with gifts, travel and meals even as he was targeted with client complaints alleging mishandling of client funds.
Had the State Bar carried out its mission of protecting the public, this complaint, and many others like it, would not be necessary, according to the complaint filed by the New York law firm Osborn Law.
“But the State Bar did not put the public first. Instead, while Girardi was hard at work defrauding his clients and co-counsel, State Bar officials were gallivanting around the country in Girardi’s private jet, staying at luxury hotels in Las Vegas, enjoying fine dining at expensive private clubs, attending lavish holiday parties with Hollywood entertainers, or attending concerts and other events, all paid for by Girardi and his firm and all while employed by the State Bar,” the complaint charged.
In early 2023, the State Bar shared publicly redacted versions of the two reports that together revealed how Girardi used money and influence to evade discipline, and how past members of the State Bar’s Board, leadership and staff engaged in shocking ethical lapses and wrongdoing, according to the State Bar 2022 Annual Report.
Although Girardi has been disbarred, he appears to be mentally incapacitated to some degree and he has vanished from the public eye, the State Bar continues to refuse to make unredacted copies of either report available to the public on privacy grounds, according to the complaint.
“Whatever privacy concerns exist are far outweighed by the public’s right to know what happened – not just generally, but specifically,” the complaint continued.
Seven former bar executives and leaders: Joe Dunn, Tom Layton, Howard Miller, John Noonen, Murray Greenberg, Mike Nisperos and Richard Platel are also defendants in the lawsuit along with the State Bar.
The State Bar could not be reached for comment but told Law.com it had not been served as of last Monday afternoon and declined to comment on its allegations.
“As laid bare in this complaint, Girardi’s ability to establish these cozy relationships allowed him to avoid investigation and punishment,” the suit stated. “For their part, the State Bar employees and officials knew that these relationships were improper, but they pursued them anyway.”
This is part of the Vanguard’s continued investigation into the California State Bar’s failure to discipline attorneys.