Risk Update

Conflicts News — Comedy Club City Council Conflict, Conflict Counsel Conflict Called

Ex-State Bar Executive Scrutinized in Girardi Probe Continued Work as Conflict Counsel” —

  • “Robert ‘Bob’ Hawley, the former acting executive director of California’s state bar, worked as a conflict counsel for the attorney-oversight agency even as he was under scrutiny for allegedly intervening in a previous disciplinary case against disgraced trial lawyer Tom Girardi.”
  • “A state bar spokesman confirmed that Hawley served on the agency’s special deputy trial counsel panel from May 2019 to December 2021. Members of the pool of private attorneys handle ethics complaints against lawyers when the Office of Chief Trial Counsel recuses itself due to a potential conflict.”
  • “Rick Coca, a senior program analyst for the state bar, said Hawley was appointed to four matters as a conflict counsel. He did not submit invoices for his work and he was not paid for it, Coca said… Coca declined to say whether bar officials had reviewed any of Hawley’s work as special deputy trial counsel but added that ‘all appropriate action will be taken.'”
  • “Hawley’s employment ‘ended independent of any conclusions’ reached by an investigation of the state bar’s handling of complaints against Girardi by Halpern May Ybarra Gelberg, Coca said. The law firm’s report, released to the public on Friday, detailed efforts by Girardi to ingratiate himself with state bar employees even as the agency fielded more than 200 complaints against him over four decades.”
  • “The report concluded that while he worked as deputy and acting executive director at the state bar, Hawley ‘ghost wrote’ case analysis memos for matters sent to conflict counsel, ‘passing them off as the work product of the independent conflict counsel, including on a Girardi case.'”
  • “The report said that in one ‘shocking’ case involving Girardi, Hawley ‘hand-selected’ a special deputy trial counsel to investigate the complaint, then wrote a recommendation to close it and, while serving as acting executive director, presented that recommendation to the bar’s board of governors in 2015 as if the conflicts attorney had authored it. Executive directors, the report noted, are not supposed to play a role in the chief trial counsel’s decisions.”
  • “‘Although we did not find any evidence that Hawley recommended closure of the Girardi case based upon any connection he had to Girardi, Hawley’s actions completely undermined the state bar’s conflict-of-interest procedures and call into question the handling of other conflict cases during Hawley’s tenure,’ the report said.”
  • “The latest revelations about Hawley follow state bar officials’ assurances at a press conference Monday that they have instituted policy changes and training that will prevent lawyers from currying favor with agency employees charged with investigating them for wrongdoing.”

Lawyer’s interests were conflicted in comedy club suit against NYC Council member: ruling” —

  • “A former New York City government lawyer violated conflict-of-interest rules after he represented an iconic comedy club in its lawsuit against a City Council member who accused the night spot of antisemitism, according to an agency ruling.”
  • “First, Yosef’s defamation suit on behalf of Manhattan’s Comic Strip Live was dismissed by a judge. Then, the Conflicts of Interest Board ruled that Yosef had no business filing the lawsuit at all, as he was a city employee at the time.”
  • “Local law prohibits a city employee from acting as an attorney against the interests of the city in litigation to which the city is a party. That law applies whether the attorney is paid or not.”
  • “In 2022, Yosef represented Comic Strip Live in a lawsuit against City Council Member Julie Menin (D-Manhattan) and a news site that covers her Upper East Side district. At dispute in the case were news articles and Menin’s comments accusing the club of being antisemitic.”
  • “The courthouse heckling of the club — which helped launch the careers of Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Adam Sandler — is rooted in its owners’ decision to post a social media message that included hashtags about vaccine mandates and about Nuremberg, a reference that offended some Jewish groups.”
  • “Menin subsequently published a letter in which she excoriated Comic Strip Live for ‘antisemitic sentiments expressed in your latest Instagram posting.'”
  • “The club sued Menin and the web site over the ‘defamatory statements,’ seeking $1 million in damages. Menin never spoke with them before posting the tweet or publishing the letter, according to the lawsuit.”
  • “Menin, who was once commissioner of the city agency that employed Yosef, said she “can’t even believe that a city attorney … would not only violate a central ethical tenet but also exercise such poor legal judgement in filing a utterly baseless and frivolous defamation claim against me for $1 million for calling out a clearly anti-Semitic tweet.”
  • “Under city charter rules, Yosef could face civil fines of up to $25,000 for representing the club in its lawsuit against Menin.”