Senate Judiciary Chair Tom Umberg Responds to Stunning California Bar Report
(Sacramento, CA) – Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana), Chair of the California Legislature’s Senate Judiciary Committee issued the following statement today in response to the State Bar of California’s release of reports outlining unethical conduct in the Bar’s mishandling of complaints about disgraced and disbarred attorney, Tom Girardi.
The Senator noted that “The recent report shows that Tom Girardi’s financial web and sphere of influence reached so far within the State Bar, that he was essentially bankrolling an employee in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel and the Executive Director’s Office and said employee’s family to the tune of close to $1 million while he was being investigated by the same organization. Every subsequent report about Tom Girardi and State Bar’s activities over the last two decades seems to be more alarming than the next.”
The Senator further stated:
“The State Bar’s most basic function is to protect California consumers. It's mindboggling that the Bar as a whole not only utterly failed this task, but also conspired to conceal obvious misconduct on the part of at least this one lawyer -- Tom Girardi. As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I cannot allow consumers to continue to be at risk. Until the State Bar demonstrates that they have taken corrective action and enacted policies and procedures that address and correct the failures of disclosure and transparency, I will withhold making any decision on what amount, if any, the Bar’s 2023 Fees should be. It took withholding of funds in 2021 to get the Bar to finally appoint a Chief Trial Counsel after nearly five years of that key position being vacant. If this crucial position had not been left vacant for so long, this malfeasance may have been uncovered sooner. The Committee will be holding an oversight hearing of the State Bar this year to get answers to the troubling questions raised by today’s report and ensure nothing like this can happen again.”
Near the end of 2020, the legal career of prominent trial attorney Thomas Girardi imploded after a federal judge accused him of stealing at least $2 million from his clients – widows and orphans whose family members died in the Boeing 737-MAX plane crash in Indonesia. As a result of this activity, it was brought to light that there were serious and repeated allegations of misconduct against Thomas Girardi reported to the State Bar over a 40 year period for which the Bar had never taken action. 2021’s Senate Bill 211, authored by Senator Umberg, similarly withheld State Bar fees until the completion of an audit of the State Bar’s attorney complaint and discipline process.
Today’s released report is just one of many currently analyzing the State Bar’s lack of attorney disciplinary procedures.
Senator Umberg added that, “Lawyers share a responsibility to each other and the public at-large, in this space, as well. It is inconceivable that attorneys in Tom Girardi's firm, or even those employed by the Bar, repeatedly failed to act in the face of years of complaints, suspicions, and questionable behaviors. With this in mind, I am authoring Senate Bill 42 this year to require attorneys to inform the State Bar when they know that a peer has engaged in professional misconduct. We owe it to the public, our clients, and ourselves, to simply be better.”
The report released today by the State Bar can be found here: https://www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/reports/Lazar-Report-and-Attachment-Redacted.pdf
Senator Umberg concluded by stating, “Ruben Duran has a difficult job as Chair of the Bar's new Board of Trustees. I look forward to partnering with him to restore confidence in the State Bar and its mission to protect Californians."
Senator Thomas Umberg represents the 34th Senate District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, La Habra, Orange, Placentia, and Santa Ana in Orange County as well as South and East Whittier in Los Angeles County. Umberg is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former federal prosecutor. He and his wife, Brigadier General Robin Umberg, USA (ret.), live in Orange County.