Today: 19-04-2024

California High Court Strengthens Ethics Rules for State Bar

California Supreme Court Implements Ethics Reforms in Wake of Girardi Scandal

In response to mounting criticism over the State Bar of California's handling of attorney Tom Girardi's misconduct, the California Supreme Court has greenlit a series of ethics reforms. The reforms, effective immediately, bolster conflict of interest rules for state bar trustees and State Bar Court judges.

As of now, state bar trustees must recuse themselves from any decision involving a financial or personal interest. Commencing December 1, the committee screening candidates for the state bar’s board of trustees will assess whether the candidate's "relationships with other attorneys" could impact their service, alongside evaluating financial and non-financial interests. Similarly, starting December 1, aspiring judges in the State Bar Court will undergo scrutiny for financial or personal relationships that might compromise their ability to serve with integrity.

These changes follow increased scrutiny of the state bar's oversight, particularly in the case of Tom Girardi, a nationally renowned plaintiffs' lawyer facing federal charges for allegedly misappropriating over $18 million. Girardi had been the subject of 205 ethics complaints since 1982 but faced no discipline until his disbarment in 2022. A report in March revealed connections between former state bar employees and Girardi, including substantial financial gifts.

The state bar expressed gratitude to the California Supreme Court for its leadership in enhancing conflict of interest regulations, emphasizing that these measures aim to uphold the highest ethical standards and fortify their mission of public protection. The reforms mark a significant step toward addressing ethical lapses within the state bar and preventing future misconduct.

Read more: California high court pushes state bar to police ethics conflicts | Tom Girardi gave $1 million to California bar investigator, report says

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