- The Bar Association was pressured to improve its legal system
- The addition of a connection is a key change the bar has made to counteract this criticism
(Reuters) – Amid mounting criticism of its attorney oversight, the State Bar of California has appointed a Public Trust Liaison – a newly created position tasked with handling complaints about the organization’s attorney discipline system.
Prosecutors said Monday the liaison, Enrique Zuniga, will hear and address concerns from the public, attorneys and others about their actions or inactions regarding complaints about attorneys. Zuniga, who has served in other capacities with the Bar for more than a decade, will make recommendations to improve the Bar’s attorney discipline program and report directly to the Bar’s Board of Trustees.
“We want to allay any public fears and give them the answers they need to solve their problems, within the limits of the law,” Zuniga said in a statement.
For years, audits have identified large backlogs in California attorney disciplinary cases, low attorney sentences, and racial disparities in disciplinary action. And the bar association’s abusive treatment of complaints against the plaintiff’s well-known attorney, Thomas Girardi, husband of reality TV star Erika Jayne Girardi, has made headlines for the past two years.
Girardi was the founder of the Girardi Keese law firm, which dissolved in early 2021 following allegations that he stole more than $2 million in settlement funds from clients.
The Bar Association launched an investigation into its handling of Girardi, revealing in November that he was the subject of 205 ethical lawyer complaints between 1982 and his dismissal in June, with more than half accusing him of mishandling client funds.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Girardi’s amicable relationship with prosecutors allowed him to maintain a clear disciplinary record despite previous allegations of misconduct. Girardi did not respond to the allegations and did not participate in the disciplinary proceedings with the public prosecutor.
Lawyer leaders said in July they made changes to the office of the chief trial counsel, which investigates and prosecutes disciplinary matters facing attorneys in the state, and that further reforms are planned.
Attorney Tom Girardi has filed over 200 ethics complaints, the California Bar Association says
The California Bar wants to be “proactive” in attorney disciplinary cases
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.