The Widening Gyre of Girardi-gate*

Like a Category 5 hurricane can spin off tornados, the widening gyre of Girardi-gate* is spinning off its own series of notable if not controversial agitations, including:

  1. The Los Angeles Times litigation against the State Bar, litigation that paid off this week when the State Bar agreed to make public the Girardi files, reversing their position that closed investigations could not be made public. What will these files show? The State Bar would probably not agree to release them if they contain anything more damning than incompetence. They probably would not have agreed to release them if they thought the Supreme Court would sustain their position on confidentiality. There is little doubt that the Supreme Court is not bound by the confidentiality statutes in the exercise of its far-reaching Constitutional power to regulate the law profession. In addition to avoiding an embarrassing reminder of this from the Supreme Court, it appears that realization has occurred that restoration of public confidence in the State Bar will require the sharing of information, perhaps even outside counsel’s report, in whole or in part (see item #6 below.)
  2. The Girardi-adjacent re-opening of the investigations of Mark Geragos and Brian Kabateck, announced publicly by the Chief Trial Counsel, after an LA Times story on the diversion of Armenian insurance settlement funds.
  3. The State Bar’s newly approved Client Trust Account Protection Program, which will give the Office of Chief Trial Counsel the power to audit client trust accounts under as yet unspecified circumstances.
  4. AB 2958, the recently signed State Bar dues bill, which prohibits the State Bar from proceeding with the regulatory “sandbox.” Girardi was cited as proof that the State Bar was distracted from its core mission by these reform activities.
  5. The Joe Dunn disciplinary prosecution, another Girardi-adjacent matter involving conduct that occurred many years ago. Geragos is Dunn’s defense counsel in this matter. Dunn and Girardi were both close to mysterious former State Bar investigator Tom Layton.
  6. The State Bar’s own investigation into Girardigate*, conducted by outside counsel, Halpern May Ybarra Gelberg LLP. The mysterious Tom Layton became even more mysterious by fighting the State Bar’s subpoena seeking his deposition.
  7. State Bar confidentiality. The new Chief Trial Counsel’s willingness to disclose confidential information and abrupt turnaround on its interpretation of Bus. & Prof. Code section 6086.1(b)(2), as well as the recent public pronouncements from the Chief Trial Counsel are causing concern by discipline defense counsel. Where else might it lead?
  8. Interest in enacting a version of Model Rule 8.3 in California, the rule that requires a lawyer to report misconduct by another lawyer to the State Bar if it raises a “substantial” question about that lawyer’s honesty or fitness to practice.

*Forgive me the “gate” cliche but the impact of the Girardi scandal is far-reaching, maybe not of Watergate proportions, but as yet not fully realized. Who knows what new horrors await?

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