State Bar of California Concedes Failures in Its Attorney Discipline Mechanism — Promises to Do Better

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by Irvin Muchnick


I have a pending complaint with the State Bar of California against Michael R. Goldstein, senior counsel at the University of California, whom I accuse of blatantly and serially lying to the court in my Public Records Act litigation for internal university documents in the cover-up of the 2014 football conditioning death of Ted Agu at Cal-Berkeley.

Not to put too fine a point on it – in my November submission to the state bar, I called Goldstein’s actions “unindicted perjury.” The most recent reproduction of the full text of my complaint, and update on the bar investigation, was at

In what I take as an encouraging sign for the integrity of that investigation’s ultimate findings, the Bar Association today released a statement to all members from Ruben Duran, the organization’s board of trustees chair. Duran said his group “takes seriously its responsibility to ensure public trust in the profession through effective governance of the State Bar and the attorney discipline system…. [W]e are committed to continuing to improve in our efforts to fully realize our core public protection mission.”

The occasion was the issuance of two commissioned reports exposing the embarrassing failure by the state bar to take action against now-disbarred celebrity attorney Thomas Girardi, whose famous cases included the one in the movie Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts.

The reports, in Duran’s words, lay out how “Girardi intentionally cultivated relationships at the State Bar [and spotlight] nine individuals at all levels who accepted his largesse and failed to report it, creating conflicts of interest.” This, in turn, fostered the improper closing of multiple investigations of Girardi involving millions of dollars. The whiff on disciplining Girardi added up to “unethical and unacceptable behavior” that continued unchecked for too long. “What happened was wrong, and the Board of Trustees does not condone it. A failure of this magnitude does tremendous damage to public trust, not only in the State Bar, but in the legal profession as a whole.”

To be clear, I am not alleging that UC’s Michael R. Goldstein, like Girardi, stole money from clients. But my complaint against Goldstein, citing attorney code of conduct provisions governing “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or reckless or intentional misrepresentation” and “conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice,” is still very important, especially in the context of the behavior of public agencies under the Public Records Act and in other matters where the underlying principle is the public interest, not money.

Quoting the words of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow, my complaint concludes by saying that truth-telling “is the basic rule. The rest is commentary,” and that “like democracy itself,” preserving the safety of the courts from lies by their officers “needs constant attention.”


Irvin Muchnick’s book Without Helmets or Shoulder Pads: The American Way of Death in Football Conditioning will be published this fall. Three chapters of the book cover the Agu death, Cal’s cover-up of the circumstances of the death, and the associated Public Records Act litigation.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick