Further Embarrassing Itself, State Bar Has Yet to Document a Basic Investigation of University of California Counsel’s Serial Lies to Courts in Ted Agu Football Death Cover-Up

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Irvin Muchnick’s book WITHOUT HELMETS OR SHOULDER PADS: The American Way of Death in Football Conditioning was recently published. Three chapters cover Cal-Berkeley’s cover-up of the cause of death – exertional sickling – in the 2014 offseason conditioning drill fatality of football player Ted Agu.


by Irvin Muchnick


As we take inventory of scandals poised to roll over into yet another year, one involves the independently scandal-plagued State Bar of California. The bar continues in its failure to deal with the prima facie serial material lies told by a University of California senior counsel, Michael R. Goldstein, to both the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal in my California Public Records Act case, which exposed internal documentation in the university’s cover-up of Ted Agu’s death.

We’ve reached the eight-month mark since the bar dismissed – minus any evidence of having conducted a substantive investigation – my complaint of unethical conduct by Goldstein for fraudulent and deceptive representations in his role as an officer of the court.

The bar has equivocated this eight-month milestone itself to the point of meaninglessness. According to the group’s Complaint Review Unit (the CRU), a response to my appeal of the April dismissal of my Goldstein complaint “may exceed eight months from the date it was received” – “and we cannot offer more specific information.” With equivalent faithfulness, the CRU could as easily have said their response “may” take, or “exceed,” eight decades.

Such verbal gymnastics are only one level of the bar’s oleaginous accountability. This year, following stories of celebrity lawyer Tom Girardi’s thefts from clients totaling millions of dollars, investigations established that top officials of the bar’s attorney misconduct disciplinary apparatus had been on the take from Girardi for years. Ruben Duran, the bar’s trustees chair, vowed to do better moving forward. Today, Duran himself is out.

My own CRU appeal involves nothing subtle or technical. Unilaterally, and without citing so much as an attempt to solicit a rejoinder from the accused party, the state bar investigator held that statements “allegedly” made by Goldstein “cannot be proven deceitful or as inadvertent mistakes.”

Allegedly – as in multiple signed submissions to courts, including a personal declaration sworn on penalty of perjury.

Inadvertent – as in, determined or asserted by whom?

In his inelegant construction, the investigator, Kenneth Advincula, seemed to be conceding, at minimum, that the statements were misstatements. Had Goldstein alternately sworn to courts, half a dozen times each, that his name was Michael Goldstein and that his name was Pancho Villa, would the public be expected to conclude that these might be harmless inadvertent mistakes?

What Goldstein actually did was to claim, alternately, that the seeking of a privacy waiver from the Agu family, to allow the release of certain documents in the Public Records Act dispute, was both “his” idea and “my” idea. In truth, the originator of the idea didn’t even matter: Agu was dead and had no privacy rights. The provenance of the privacy waiver was, additionally, irrelevant to the Superior Court finding that I was the prevailing party in the litigation; the court ruled that the lawsuit itself catalyzed the production of the body of hundreds of pages of public documents that had been wrongfully withheld.

But UC, via Goldstein, used the argument that it was behind the Agu family privacy waiver. Or that I was. Or maybe that it was that I was until I wasn’t. Or whatever was being spun on any given page of any given legal brief, across a period of years. All to argue that the university, not I, should be designated the lawsuit’s “prevailing party.” In appellate court, Goldstein doubled down on his false claims – which included a pleading, unprecedented in the case law, that punitive fees be imposed on me, the journalist, for bringing a “clearly frivolous” case.

In a friend-of-the-court filing, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the California First Amendment Coalition said the university was thereby seeking to “saddle ordinary requesters who would assert their rights” with the threat of devastating attorneys’ fees. The threat alone, the amici said, could have a chilling effect and “stymie reporting on matters of public interest and concern.”

The Court of Appeal, like the lower court, denied this gambit. However, appellate justice Mark B. Simons, a former adjunct faculty member at UC’s Hastings College of Law, authored an opinion reversing Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Brand’s ruling that I was the prevailing party. Thus, the university’s burden of reimbursing my attorney, Roy S. Gordet, $125,000 in legal fees was canceled.

Exactly how dirty did senior counsel Michael R. Goldstein play to get to that result? As of now, the State Bar of California, already operating under its own cloud, won’t say – nor even lift a finger to try to find out.



“$125,000 Was a Small Price For Cal-Berkeley’s Already Successful Ted Agu Football Death Cover-Up. Fighting Even That Is Designed to Intimidate Anyone Daring to Use the Public Records Act to Investigate Cover-Ups,” November 8, 2022, https://concussioninc.net/?p=15073

“Full Text of Attorney Misconduct Complaint Against University of California Senior Counsel Michael R. Goldstein, State Bar No. 129848,” November 18, 2022, https://concussioninc.net/?p=15105

“California State Bar fumbles again,” Salon, April 23, https://www.salon.com/2023/04/23/california-fumbles-again-as-cover-up-of-uc-football-players-slowly-unravels/ 

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick