April 22, 2024

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Former State Bar employees must answer questions about Tom Girardi, judge rules

Former State Bar employees must answer questions about Tom Girardi, judge rules

A Los Angeles decide has purchased two previous staff members of the Condition Bar of California to solution concerns under oath about Tom Girardi and his close ties to the agency that is intended to protect the community from corrupt lawyers.

The Condition Bar can carry out depositions of the two former staff members as component of its inside investigation into no matter whether insiders served Girardi sidestep willpower and keep an unblemished regulation license even though he misappropriated dollars from his purchasers for years, L.A. Superior Courtroom Judge Michael L. Stern ruled in the course of a brief hearing Wednesday.

“These are legitimate requests,” Stern claimed of the Condition Bar’s initiatives to issue the two employees. “The depositions will go ahead in the thirty day period of December.”

Right after the listening to, the State Bar’s basic counsel, Ellin Davtyan, mentioned in a assertion that the agency was “pleased with Choose Stern’s ruling, which verified our posture and paves the way to job interview two critical witnesses” in the inquiry around the mishandling of issues against Girardi.

The Point out Bar’s investigation is a single of many ongoing inquiries into the Girardi scandal. A large-ranging federal felony investigation is also underway. Girardi’s former main financial officer was billed this month with wire fraud, which prosecutors describe as a “side fraud” in a wider $100-million embezzlement involving other individuals shut to the Girardi Keese regulation business.

Girardi, 83, has been identified with Alzheimer’s disease and is in a courtroom-supervised conservatorship.

The State Bar has not identified the two former staff it is trying to get to question, but its lawyers confirmed in court filings that they are Tom Layton, a previous L.A. County sheriff’s deputy who later on grew to become a outstanding investigator at the Condition Bar and Sonja Oehler, the onetime executive assistant to Joe Dunn, the former chief government of the Condition Bar who was fired in 2014.

Layton had a shut friendship with Girardi in the course of the many years when the attorney was the issue of scores of ethics issues. He accepted free of charge authorized function, journey and foods from Girardi, and just one of his young children labored at the lawyer’s Wilshire Boulevard company, The Moments has earlier noted.

Girardi and the investigator had been commonly witnessed together at Girardi’s legislation workplace, political fundraisers, civic activities, the Jonathan Club and upscale steakhouses these types of as Morton’s and the Palm. Layton also experienced shut ties with federal and regional legislation enforcement and cultivated associations with judges throughout California. A lot of seen him as a surrogate to Girardi.

Oehler and Layton were being terminated shortly soon after Dunn. The two submitted lawsuits against the Point out Bar, eventually achieving settlements in 2019. Oehler acquired $150,000, although Layton was compensated $400,000.

These settlement agreements have become central in Layton and Oehler’s efforts to keep away from offering data to the Point out Bar about Girardi.

Final summer, the Point out Bar issued subpoenas to each Layton and Oehler, but both equally flouted the requests — pointing to the phrases of the settlement agreements.

The pair share a legal team. Just one of their attorneys, Derrick Lowe, argued Wednesday that the agreements “forever” blocked “the Condition Bar from imposing any statements, calls for or obligations … such as the deposition obligations at challenge currently.”

Robert Baker, a veteran litigator who is also representing Layton and Oehler, recommended in court that the Condition Bar was abusing its authority by heading just after two former employees.

“They are expressing that we have this ability of subpoena and …. we’re just going to dismiss the agreement that we entered into,” Baker claimed, afterwards including: “This total issue is a sham to attempt to make proof so they can besmirch and degrade previous personnel of the Condition Bar.”

But a major attorney for the Condition Bar, Brady Dewar, countered that the settlement agreements experienced nothing to do with the subpoena to respond to questions about Girardi.

“The obligation to response thoughts arose in 2022, and it’s not minimal by this launch arrangement,” Dewar explained. He pointed out that the Point out Bar had now questioned 15 other witnesses in the inside investigation, none of whom elevated objections.

It is unclear how substantially information the company will glean out of the depositions.

Baker at a single point advised that the State Bar could only request his clients about a slender window of time — 2019, the 12 months they settled their lawsuits, and following.

Aaron May possibly, the outside counsel who is foremost the State Bar’s investigation into Girardi, countered, “We totally approach to inquire about issues prior to 2019.”