The subject of private judging and maintaining confidentiality in settlement agreements was in the news again today, this time in the Los Angeles Times article “Prying into Judicial Secrecy.”
The article announces a significant new study by UCLA Law School and the Rand Corporation on the effect of private judging and confidential settlement agreements on the civil justice system.
But what really caught my attention was Tom Girardi’s reported comment that he was “troubled” by a confidentiality agreement he signed 25 years ago on behalf of a boy who alleged he was molested by a Catholic priest. As the Times reported:
Girardi said he had doubts about [his] client’s claims at the time [but that] when the massive pedophilia scandal in the Catholic Church came to public light, [he] said he learned that the priest had molested 17 kids.
“My confidentiality agreement probably had negative consequences” for all of these kids, Girardi acknowledged.
Both of these candid statements are both necessary and courageous. They demonstrate that even the best of us sometimes doubt our own clients’ claims and that we might sometimes inadvertently harm others while doing the job we’re ethically obliged to do — “zealously representing” our clients.
The last time I saw Tom was during the Vioxx trial Judge Chaney’s courtroom. I’d brought my dad down to court — now 83 and failing physically and mentally. At the break, Girardi stopped by to shake Dad’s hand and say a few generous things about his tenure as Commissioner in the downtown Superior Court. I’ll never forget this kindness, particularly the memory of the tears that coursed down Dad’s face to have someone of Girardi’s reputation call him “Your Honor” again.
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