Tom Girardi is a famous LA attorney, who, before late last year was perhaps best known for his role in the real life “Erin Brockovich” story. He is also known to many as the husband of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Girardi.
More recently, however, Mr. Girardi has become known for the massive fraud he perpetrated against his clients – namely the misappropriation of $2 million in settlement funds meant for the families of plane crash victims.
Prior to last week I was unaware of the huge Hollywood scandal surrounding Mr. Girardi. But when his brother, Robert Girardi, petitioned the LA Probate Court for Conservatorship over him, one of my staff was quick to bring me up to date on the drama.
Over the past couple months, gossip magazines have been swirling with rumors regarding Erika and Tom Girardi’s impending divorce, Tom’s bankruptcy case, and the massive fraud he (and his firm) reportedly committed against clients.
In addition to the legal maelstrom already surrounding Mr. Girardi, his brother Robert has now filed for Conservatorship over him in Los Angeles County Court, alleging the 81 year lacks mental competency.
Robert, a dentist from Seal Beach, indicates in court documents that Tom has ‘deteriorated to the point where he cannot care for himself’.
Robert further states in court documents that ‘his short-term memory is severely compromised’ and Tom is ‘unable to handle his financial affairs and protect his property at present, despite serious financial and legal problems.’ The word “serious” here is certainly no understatement.
I have handled a number of Conservatorships that had simultaneous legal proceedings in other courts. Those proceedings have included divorce, bankruptcy, and fraud allegations, but not all at the same time. And the lawsuits filed against Tom Girardi are not limited to just three. In addition, every lawsuit against Tom personally is interrelated with the others and compounded by a long list of additional lawsuits against Tom and his law firm, Girardi Keese.
Conservatorship of Mr. Girardi appears to be deeply necessary in Tom’s case, at the very least so someone can manage his lawsuits. Mr. Girardi was reportedly held in contempt of court more than once in the past few months due to his inability to properly represent himself.
Statements made by Robert Girardi in Court docs (“he cannot care for himself”) also indicate that Tom is in need of the services a Conservator typically provides – ie someone to manage finances and medical care.
So what can Tom’s brother Robert do as Conservator?
Once Robert is appointed Conservator over Tom, he can essentially “step into his shoes” and take actions on his behalf. Not only can the Conservator “marshal” or take control of Girardi’s various assets, he can take actions to move the impending legal actions forward. He can also make health related decisions for Tom and arrange for him to be properly cared for.
As Conservator, Robert may even negotiate and finalize Mr. Girardi’s divorce from Erika Girardi. Because we don’t know the extent of Tom’s mental capacity at this point, it’s hard to determine how much of a role Tom himself will play in his own divorce. Tom’s divorce is mired in complexities, and he may be unable to understand the ramifications of any of his decisions. As an example, rumor has it that Erika Girardi only filed for divorce as part of a larger scheme to embezzle funds from Tom’s clients.
As Conservator, Robert will also be able to act on Tom’s behalf in his bankruptcy proceeding. A long list of Creditors owed tens of millions of dollars have filed suit against Tom and his law firm. The bulk of the debt appears to be related to “litigation funding,” a tool for law firms to keep afloat while waiting to settle major lawsuits.
In bankruptcy related court filings, Robert Girardi described Tom in a way that is all too familiar for families caring for relatives with severe cognitive decline:
“My brother is incapable of realizing and understanding the repercussions of the bankruptcy filings pending against him…. notwithstanding having [it] explained to him over and over and by various people”
“Furthermore, my brother is not capable of making rational decisions with respect to his financial responsibilities and offers solutions and opinions that are factually impossible.”
Tom Girardi’s Conservatorship hearing is set for June 9th of this year. However, it appears that his brother filed for an Emergency Temporary Conservatorship that will be heard by the Court in less than a week. In matters where the Petitioner (here Robert Girardi) can show there is an emergency basis for Conservatorship, the Court will allow a Conservator to be named on a temporary basis. In Tom’s case, there is likely no doubt the court will consider his situation an emergency.
For questions about Conservatorship in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact our SF East Bay Trust & Conservatorship law firm at 925-322-1795.