Irvin Muchnick’s book Without Helmets or Shoulder Pads: The American Way of Death in Football Conditioning will be published later this year by ECW Press.
by Irvin Muchnick
The State Bar of California’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel – which considers complaints of unethical conduct by its members – “has concluded that we would not be able to prevail in a disciplinary hearing” against University of California senior counsel Michael R. Goldstein for what I characterize as his “unindicted perjury” during my California Public Records Act litigation for internal documents relating to the cover-up of the circumstances of football player Ted Agu’s 2014 death in Berkeley.
An April 4 letter by investigator Thomas Advincula cites these factors:
* Statements “allegedly” made by Goldstein “cannot be proven deceitful or as inadvertent mistakes.”
* Neither the Alameda County Superior Court nor the state Court of Appeal sanctioned Goldstein.
* In my interview with the investigator, I was “unsure why respondent would have made those statements.”
Advincula’s letter includes no indication that Goldstein was even confronted with the allegations and asked to give his own account of them. My complaint landed in a period of public scrutiny of the legal group’s lax disciplinary system — occasioned by Los Angeles Times reporting on how the state bar had ignored multiple complaints against celebrity lawyer Thomas Girardi, who stole more than $18 million from clients. Last month the State Bar board of trustees chair, Ruben Duran, released the results of two internal investigations exposing past corruption in attorney disciplinary mechanisms and vowed, moving forward, “transparency and accountability and [restoring] public trust.” In an email exchange with Concussion Inc., Duran did not comment on my Goldstein complaint or its disposition.
As readers here know, the background is that in 2021, the lower court ruled that I was the prevailing party in litigation that began in 2017. Judge Jeffrey S. Brand said the work of my attorney Roy S. Gordet had catalyzed the release of more than 700 pages of previously withheld documents. Many of them bore on the false initial finding of Ted Agu’s cause of death during a bizarre offseason football team conditioning drill. The team physician, Dr. Casey Batten (now with the Los Angeles Rams), made an unsolicited call to the Alameda County medical examiner, in which Batten withheld the basic information that Agu was a carrier of the sickle cell trait and likely had died of an exertional attack associated with that condition. Batten pushed to the coroner an inaccurate finding of cause of death – a supposed generic heart condition. That finding would not be corrected until after discovery and depositions in the Agu family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the university, which settled for $4.75 million.
As laid out in my complaint to the state bar last November, Goldstein in court filings,including in a declaration sworn on penalty of perjury, repeatedly and cyclically and emphatically told two diametrically opposite stories of efforts to obtain privacy waivers that, he maintained, were needed to facilitate the release of documents. In one version, the university proposed waivers; in the other version, I proposed them. Judge Brand was silent when we pointed out Goldstein’s lies, but did ultimately rule in our favor for the awarding of attorney fees to Gordet.
UC appealed Brand’s decision and got the Court of Appeal to reverse it. I then filed the misconduct complaint against Goldstein.
The university’s various sleazy legal tactics in the case had included a failed attempt in lower court, and reiterated unsuccessfully on appeal, to have me sanctioned for bringing a “clearly frivolous” Public Records Act petition. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the California First Amendment Coalition told the Court of Appeal that UC’s motion for punitive fees – never seen in a published Public Records Act case – was designed “to saddle ordinary requesters who would assert their rights … with potentially devastating attorneys’ fees,” and added: “The threat of such fees, alone, could chill the willingness of members of the public with legitimate claims to pursue litigation to enforce their right to access information.”
I am appealing to the State Bar Complaint Review Unit and will share those details with readers.