Los Angeles Times writers Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton report today on Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s reaction to their earlier exposé about the role of private judges — including former California Supreme Court justice Edward Panelli — in disgraced lawyer Tom Girardi’s schemes to defraud clients. (See: “Tom Girardi’s epic corruption exposes the secretive world of private judges.”)

The article says that the Chief Justice “called revelations about the conduct of the retired judges . . . ‘shocking’ [and] acknowledg[ed], ‘There are not adequate safeguards regarding the business of private judging.’ ”

Today’s article summarizes the exposé:

“For decades, Girardi paid well-regarded private judges as much as $1,500 an hour to help him administer mass tort cases involving thousands of clients. [He] traded on the names of these former jurists to deflect questions about missing money and how, in some instances, they aided his misappropriation of client funds.”

Specifically about Justice Panelli, who served on the Supreme Court for eight years until his retirement in 1994, the article says:

“The Times described Panelli’s role in a $17-million settlement Girardi secured for elderly women who alleged they got cancer from a menopause drug. When some of the women suspected in 2014 that Girardi had not paid them all they were due, his firm blamed Panelli and said the retired justice had ordered them to ‘hold back’ $1 million. The claim was false, but the jurist did not inform the clients or the trial court and fought a subpoena for months before finally being forced to testify under oath. Only then did Panelli disclose that Girardi was lying.”

According to the article, the Chief Justice “did not offer a specific course of action to protect the public but suggested that lawmakers in Sacramento should take the initiative.”


Supreme Court might open Girardi’s State Bar disciplinary files

Supreme Court orders Girardi disbarred. (See here.)