State Bar of California charges attorney Tom Girardi with misappropriating millions from clients

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Thomas Girardi is seen at an undated court hearing. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Thomas Girardi is seen at an undated court hearing. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

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The State Bar of California filed discipline charges Tuesday against legendary attorney Tom Girardi, formally accusing him of misappropriating millions in client funds, dishonesty and other acts of moral turpitude in his law practice.

In practical terms, the disciplinary action will have little effect on the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member. Last month, Girardi, 81, was placed in a temporary conservatorship because of what his family said was dementia and consequently was moved to inactive status by the bar.

But the disciplinary charges carry great symbolic weight for bar regulators, who have been under fire for their handling of Girardi over the decades. Politically savvy and one of California’s most renowned attorneys, Girardi kept a pristine license with the bar despite a trail of unhappy clients and malpractice suits.

That reputation began to crumble late last year after his wife, singer and “Real Housewives” star Erika Jayne, filed for divorce and his vaunted Wilshire Boulevard firm ceased operations. A bankruptcy trustee has said in court papers that Girardi owes more than $56 million to creditors, former clients and lenders.

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