November 30, 2022

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State Bar asks judge to force ex-employees to testify about Girardi

The Condition Bar of California is taking two former staff to court docket in a bid to drive them to divulge what they know about suspected corruption at the agency that allowed Tom Girardi to avoid self-discipline for many years.

In a pair of filings in new days in Los Angeles County Outstanding Court, legal professionals for the Point out Bar wrote that the previous workers have been thought to have “information pertinent to the investigation” but had flouted subpoenas issued in July directing them to testify less than oath.

In looking for a judge’s purchase to compel them to submit to questioning, the Condition Bar did not title the previous employees. As a substitute, the attorneys determined each only as a “confidential witness” in what agency attorneys said was an try to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

Inquiry-linked interviews and correspondence reviewed by The Instances show that just one of the previous personnel is Tom Layton, a after-popular State Bar investigator who had a close friendship with Girardi though the lawyer was the issue of various ethics problems.

As The Moments has earlier comprehensive, Layton accepted no cost legal do the job, journey and foods from Girardi and one particular of his children labored at the lawyer’s Wilshire Boulevard business. Girardi and the investigator ended up frequently observed with each other at Girardi’s law workplace, political fundraisers, civic activities, the Jonathan Club and upscale steakhouses these kinds of as Morton’s and the Palm.

Layton did not return messages trying to find comment.

The two previous personnel are represented by Robert Baker, a veteran L.A. litigator who knew Girardi for a long time and defended him in various lawsuits brought by disgruntled customers and friends about the years.

Baker declined to determine his purchasers but mentioned both equally had formerly sued the Point out Bar.

Layton sued the company in 2016 for wrongful termination immediately after thoughts arose about his link to Girardi and attained a $400,000 settlement. Asked if one particular of the unknown witnesses was Layton, Baker said, “I’m not heading to get into that.”

Baker explained to The Times that both previous personnel have settlement agreements that release them from any even further “claims, money owed, liabilities, demands” by the Condition Bar. The settlement phrases, he explained, “released the plaintiffs from any statements of what ever nature” — suggesting they could not be forced either to turn more than documents or response thoughts about the Girardi probe.

Baker named the Condition Bar’s investigation, which is staying done by an outside the house regulation company, Halpern May well Ybarra Gelberg LLP, “a scam.”

Exterior of Condition Bar of California offices in downtown Los Angeles.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Periods)

“There’s no purpose in my belief to do an examination about the Condition Bar’s former workers just after Mr. Girardi has presently been disbarred,” Baker explained in a temporary cellphone job interview. “What’s the goal of this? They are investing money of lawyers’ dues — what do they anticipate carrying out, other than blaming prior personnel for an alleged transgression by Mr. Girardi and the State Bar?”

In the wake of Girardi’s astonishing downfall, proof has poured out about corruption at his vaunted agency, Girardi Keese, and in other places. A trustee overseeing the regulation business bankruptcy estimates that Girardi stole $14 million from clientele in the remaining 10 years just before his firm collapsed. In one noteworthy case in point, Girardi wired $300,000 from a consumer rely on account to a sitting appellate choose with whom he was carrying on a several years-lengthy extramarital affair.

The Moments has also claimed how Girardi cultivated close associations with Condition Bar officers as nicely as with non-public judges who performed critical roles in administering the settlements from which he is now accused of misappropriating funds.

The bar announced the exterior firm’s investigation in January, saying its purpose was “to identify actions by anyone with ties to the State Bar that may represent malfeasance in how discipline complaints against Girardi had been taken care of.” 

At the time, Ruben Duran, the chair of the bar’s governing board, proclaimed, “Mark our terms: We will go anywhere the proof leads us.”

In the ensuing time period, tiny has emerged publicly about the development or scope of the investigation.

A hearing on the requests by the Condition Bar is scheduled for Oct. 28.