Famed ex-lawyer Tom Girardi is competent to stand trial, expert says

Tom Girardi wearing a face mask
Former lawyer Tom Girardi, accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients, is shown outside the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 6.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

A government expert has concluded that Tom Girardi, the disgraced former attorney accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients, is mentally fit to go before a jury despite his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Federal prosecutors revealed the finding of Diana Goldstein in a court filing on Friday, writing that the neuropsychologist “has concluded her examination and opined, among other things, that [Girardi] is competent to stand trial.”

Her basis for that conclusion and her full analysis are unclear. Goldstein’s report was filed under seal and partly redacted by Girardi’s attorneys, and even the prosecutors who retained her do not have access to the complete document.


The finding undercuts years of assertions by Girardi’s attorneys and allies, and it is likely to add fuel to a long-running debate in the legal community over whether he actually has dementia or has been malingering to dodge accountability.

His lawyers at the federal public defender’s office did not immediately return messages seeking comment. They have retained two experts to evaluate Girardi, but their analyses have not been disclosed. Goldstein, who did not return a message seeking comment, practices in Chicago and has lectured on the topic of malingering, according to a resume posted online.

Girardi, 84, is accused of federal wire fraud charges and other counts in two jurisdictions — Los Angeles and Chicago — related to the alleged misappropriation of $18 million in client settlement money.

People close to Girardi have contended for years that he suffers from dementia that makes him unable to understand legal proceedings against him or explain what happened to tens of millions of dollars owed to clients from his once-revered firm, Girardi Keese.

“He still thinks he’s practicing law,” his estranged wife, Erika Girardi, told Andy Cohen last year on his Bravo show, “Watch What Happens Live.”

A forensic psychiatrist diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s in January 2021 and a judge subsequently placed him in a conservatorship overseen by his younger brother. He resides in a memory care facility and has been prescribed drugs for dementia, according to filings in his bankruptcy case.


But some have questioned the diagnosis. Girardi was running his firm and speaking to clients and other lawyers up to the day it collapsed in December 2020. He hosted a continuing education panel the previous month. The State Bar of California was so suspicious that he was faking illness that it asked the judge in the conservatorship proceedings to order an independent and more thorough mental examination with an agency lawyer, writing that the claim of cognitive problems came “only after [Girardi] became enmeshed in mounting legal troubles.”

The judge in that case denied the State Bar’s request. Girardi was disbarred last year.

When Girardi appeared at his February arraignment, he did not speak. Assistant U.S. Atty. Scott Paetty said at that time that the government “understands competency will be an issue in this matter.”

Girardi’s lawyers are expected to file a motion regarding their client’s competency later this month, likely providing greater detail into his current condition and the findings of medical experts. A hearing is scheduled Aug. 3.