Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, May 10, 2022


Page 1


State Bar Seeks Services of Trustee of Girardi|Keese Estate

Under Stipulation, Requiring Bankruptcy Judge’s Approval, Firm Conducting Probe of Handling of Complaints

Against Tom Girardi Will Pay for Time Expended in Combing Through Records, Identifying Pertinent Ones

By a MetNews Staff Writer


The State Bar of California will pay the trustee in bankruptcy to sort through and supply records relating to debtor Girardi|Keese, the defunct law firm of disgraced lawyer Thomas V. Girardi, if Bankruptcy Judge Barry Russell of the Central District of California approves a stipulation filed yesterday.

Elissa D. Miller, the trustee in bankruptcy, and Aaron M. May of Halpern May YbarraGelbergLLP (“HMYG”), outside counsel hired by the State Bar in January to investigate the handling of complaints against Girardi over the years which resulted in no disciplinary action. HMYG will probe whether Girardi, through influence, was able to ward off scrutiny.

If Russell gives the go-ahead, the State Bar’s subpoena will be served on Miller and within five business days, the law firm will pay Miller “the high estimate for the Phase 1 Costs” in sifting through the voluminous file to locate responsive documents. No figures are mentioned in the stipulation.

It says simply that Miller “has already provided HMYG with an estimate of the costs to be incurred by the Trustee, on behalf of the Estate, with respect to Phase 1.”

Trustee’s Concern

The stipulation recites:

“The Trustee has expressed a willingness and desire to cooperate with the State Bar but is concerned that compliance with the Subpoena will be unduly burdensome and costly for the Estate. The Trustee and the State Bar have met and conferred in an effort to resolve the Trustee’s concerns. HMYG, on behalf of the State Bar, has agreed to bear the cost of the Trustee’s compliance with the Subpoena.”

Ruben Duran, chair of the State Bar Board of Trustees, commented:

“While details of this investigation must remain confidential to give it the greatest chance for success, this stipulation is a public record that demonstrates the State Bar’s progress, continuing effort, and resolve in pursuing this investigation thoroughly and completely.”

Unrelated to Disbarment

The agreement has no relationship to disciplinary action against Girardi, who turned 83 one week ago. The State Bar on March 2, 2022 transmitted to the California Supreme Court the recommendation of the State Bar Court that the once-celebrated and wealthy lawyer be disbarred.

Girardi’s chicanery came to light after U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin of the Northern District of Illinois determined that Girardi and his firm had embezzled at least $2 million in settlement funds owed to “widows” and “orphans” of 189 persons who died in a 2018 plane crash in Indonesia. He ordered the assets of Girardi and his firm frozen.

The judge remarked:

“No matter what your personal financial situation is, no matter what kind of pressures you are under, if you touch client money, you are going to be disbarred and quite possibly charged criminally.”

An attorney for Girardi revealed that firm had only $15,000 in its accounts and was unable to pay salaries that were owed.


Copyright 2022, Metropolitan News Company