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Tom Girardi has Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatrist tells L.A. court

A closeup of Tom Girardi smiling outside an L.A. courthouse.
Tom Girardi, pictured outside an L.A. courthouse in 2014, cannot understand or participate in court proceedings, a doctor says.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Troubled Los Angeles trial attorney Tom Girardi suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and cannot understand or participate in court proceedings, according to a psychiatrist who examined him last month.

The physician’s assessment was revealed Wednesday in a Superior Court filing by an attorney for Girardi’s younger brother, who has temporary conservatorship of the famed 81-year-old lawyer.

Dr. Nathan Lavid, a Long Beach forensic and clinical psychiatrist, met with Girardi on Feb. 26 as part of the conservatorship case initiated in January by his brother Robert. Lavid found “major impairment” in Girardi’s short-term memory, logical reasoning and recognition of familiar objects and people, according to a sworn declaration. The psychiatrist indicated that Girardi was experiencing delusions and “severely disorganized thinking.”

Girardi has dominated civil law in California for decades, winning billions in judgments for plaintiffs in product liability, personal injury and toxic pollution cases. He is best known for his role in the case depicted in “Erin Brockovich” and his marriage to singer Erika Jayne, a star of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

His venerable firm, Girardi Keese, collapsed in December amid emerging evidence that Girardi had stolen or otherwise misappropriated more than $13 million in settlements from a burn victim and the survivors of victims of an Indonesian plane crash. Creditors subsequently forced him into bankruptcy, and a federal judge referred him for criminal investigation.

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Tom Girardi and his firm were sued more than a hundred times between the 1980s and last year, with at least half of those cases asserting misconduct in his law practice. Yet, Girardi’s record with the State Bar of California remained pristine.

A criminal defense attorney he retained had said in December that Girardi was unable to assist in his defense, shed light on the missing money or understand his current straits. The psychiatrist’s declaration this week bolstered those assertions.

Lavid, a consulting psychiatrist for the Superior Court, wrote that Girardi had “late onset” Alzheimer’s and indicated he was unable, medically, to attend proceedings “for the foreseeable future.”

“Dementia impairs his ability to understand the hearing,” Lavid wrote. “His emotional distress is directly related to his dementia and exacerbated by his confusion.”

The brother of prominent Los Angeles attorney Tom Girardi has asked a judge to appoint him as a guardian over his sibling, asserting that the elderly lawyer “is incompetent and unable to act for himself.”

The filing came a day after the State Bar of California, the agency that regulates the state’s legal profession, determined Girardi was ineligible to practice law after his license was ordered to be inactive. The move appeared to be the result of the conservatorship and not any disciplinary action by the state bar.

A Times investigation found Girardi and his firm had been sued more than 100 times over the last four decades, with numerous allegations of legal malpractice and misappropriation of settlement funds, but maintained an unblemished license at the state bar.

Girardi’s brother was appointed temporary conservator following a hearing last month, and the Orange County dentist is seeking a more permanent guardianship at a hearing next week. Nicholas Van Brunt, an attorney representing Robert Girardi, said via email, “This obviously continues to be a heartbreaking time for Robert.”


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