Lawyer Tom Girardi to face competency review after not guilty plea

The Stow family attorney Thomas Girardi is interviewed before his client San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow arrives at a Los Angeles Court the day before closing arguments in a civil trial in a lawsuit brought by Stow against former Los Angeles Dodgers o
EUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(Reuters) - A magistrate judge in Los Angeles on Monday entered a not guilty plea for disbarred attorney Tom Girardi, who was charged last week with embezzling $15 million from his law firm's clients over a nine-year period, federal prosecutors said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Stevenson set Girardi's bail at $250,000. His brother and conservator, Robert, is responsible for covering the bail amount, prosecutors said.

The case now goes to U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton, who will set a briefing and hearing schedule to determine whether Girardi is mentally competent to stand trial, prosecutors said.

Robert Girardi, who was appointed his brother's conservator in 2021, has asserted that Tom Girardi is mentally incompetent, and a psychiatrist said Girardi has Alzheimer's disease. Los Angeles prosecutors last week said Girardi's competency to stand trial would be litigated in court.

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles declined to comment further.

Girardi is represented by lawyers from the federal public defender's office. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 83-year-old lawyer was regarded as a legendary figure in the plaintiffs bar until allegations of stolen client funds in late 2020 derailed his legal career and led to the collapse of his law firm, Girardi Keese. During his prime, Girardi's legal battle against Pacific Gas & Electric Co inspired the Oscar-winning film "Erin Brockovich."

Girardi is also facing separate federal criminal charges in Chicago over allegations that he misappropriated more than $3 million in client funds owed to families of the victims of the 2018 Boeing 737 MAX Lion Air Flight 610 crash in Indonesia. The crash killed all 189 onboard.

Girardi is scheduled to be arraigned in Chicago on March 3, according to court records. His son-in-law, David Lira, who also worked at Girardi Keese, is scheduled to be arraigned on identical charges on Friday.

Damon Cheronis, an attorney representing Lira, has said his client is innocent and will plead not guilty.

Read more:

California lawyer Tom Girardi charged with stealing client funds

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.