A retired California appellate judge who conducted a four-year affair with Tom Girardi has returned numerous gifts from the now-disgraced attorney to a bankruptcy trustee, a former justice attorney said.
Tricia A. Bigelow, who resigned as presiding judge of a Los Angeles appellate court division last year, presented the gifts this week after The Times asked for an explanation of checks Girardi wrote her in 2017, including one for $5,000 from his bank account the law firm.
An attorney for Bigelow said that by then her romance with Girardi had ended and that she could find no record of her cashing that check or a $10,000 check from an account Girardi shared with his wife Erika, the star of ” Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” shared.” But the investigation apparently prompted Bigelow to hand over other gifts to the trustee overseeing the defunct Girardi Keese law firm.
“Justice Bigelow doesn’t want anything even potentially related to funds Girardi took from his client-victims,” her attorney Alan Jackson told the Times in an interview on Thursday.
Hundreds of former Girardi clients say the legendary attorney stole tens of millions of dollars from their settlements and are hoping to recover their money through bankruptcy proceedings. Bigelow’s attorney refused to determine or describe the total value of the returned gifts.
He said that during the affair, which began in 2012 and ended in September 2016, the judiciary considered Girardi “a successful lawyer” and had no reason to believe the gifts might have come from embezzled client funds.
“She is appalled and appalled that she was the unwitting recipient of tainted gifts,” Jackson said, adding that she “spit out every gift known to her in the last two days.”
Court-appointed trustee Elissa Miller, who he said received the gifts, has worked for more than a year and a half to assemble all of the remaining assets, eventually resolving former clients and other creditors. Miller declined to comment. Girardi, 83, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year and is in a court-ordered conservatory with a younger brother controlling his affairs.
So far, the investigation has focused on his estranged wife Erika Girardi, 51, who filed for divorce in late 2020 after two decades of marriage. Her free issues were a continuous line of her recording career and her appearances on Housewives. At the request of the trustee, a judge this summer ordered a $750,000 pair of diamond earrings given to the reality star by her husband for $750,000 be sold with the proceeds to pay for cheated customers.
A lawyer for Erika Girardi said the return of Bigelow’s gifts – and the terms on which they were accepted – should be set out in a public court filing.
“I would like to see a public accounting of what Judge Bigelow says she received and what she returned to the trustee,” Evan Borges said.
The trustee has signaled that she will pursue others who have received money or other valuables from Girardi. An attorney for Miller wrote last month that during a “comprehensive review” of Girardi’s financial records, “the trustee found numerous transfers of interest in property in the estate to third parties” and wanted court permission to hire additional attorneys to track them down and possibly confiscate these assets.
Robert K. Rasmussen, a bankruptcy expert and professor at USC’s Gould School of Law, said the law allows a trustee to track gifts made by a debtor in the four years prior to bankruptcy.
“The thought is that you really shouldn’t be giving money away if it’s coming out of the skin of the people you owe money to,” Rasmussen said. “When you default, every dollar you give away is a dollar less to give to your creditors.”
Bigelow, 62, and Girardi’s relationship was revealed by his wife shortly after his company collapsed in 2020. Erika Girardi posted a collage of screenshots of text messages from the judiciary on Tom Girardi’s clamshell phone on Instagram.
“He paid her Saks bill and her plastic surgery,” Erika Girardi captioned the pictures, which were apparently sent in 2016.
Some news shows Bigelow asking Girardi to mail a check to a cosmetic surgeon in West Hollywood, and she provided the doctor’s address. “Please keep this in mind,” she wrote to Girardi.
Erika Girardi later deleted the post, but supporters flooded Bigelow’s phone with threats.
When asked if the recently returned gifts included the cost of cosmetic surgery, her attorney Jackson said, “Medical procedures are personal and private matters and it would be inappropriate to comment on anything related to a medical procedure.”
Bigelow said she withdrew from handling cases involving Girardi or his company after the affair began. California judges are required to disclose gifts received annually, but there is an exception for gifts received as part of a “dating relationship.”
She married another lawyer in 2018. After resigning from the bar, she signed with a private judge firm in LA
Her attorney said, “She has long been a staunch advocate for crime victims and is focused on doing her part to help those victims recover, at least in this case.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-19/retired-justice-returns-tom-girardi-gifts Retired justice returns gifts from ex-boyfriend Tom Girardi