real ex-wives

A Complete Timeline of Erika Jayne’s Legal Trouble

Photo: Bravo

When The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Jayne filed for divorce from her husband, Tom Girardi, in early November 2020, one might have expected the domestic drama common with reality-TV splits.

Indeed, Jayne’s first moves in these proceedings weren’t all that surprising. Jayne, a 50-year-old singer, asked Girardi, an 82-year-old class-action lawyer, for spousal support. He did not want to pay her, setting the stage for a nasty dispute. Sure, they’re high profile, and yes, their differences in age and, likely, income raised the stakes, but divorces often boil down to money.

Their marital acrimony, which seemed like it would play out like many a celebrity divorce, was soon supplanted by an unexpected onslaught of legal problems for Jayne and Girardi. Some of his clients alleged that he had pocketed their settlement money for personal use — and that the divorce was a ruse for hiding his ill-gotten gains.

Jayne herself was sucked into this drama with allegations that she was given some of this settlement money, and it looks like Jayne will have to deal with some of the financial claims against her estranged husband.

Here is what we know so far.

November 3, 2020: Erika Jayne files for divorce

Jayne filed for divorce from Girardi on November 3, 2020. At first, it didn’t seem like a total mess, considering her kind words for Girardi. “After much consideration, I have decided to end my marriage to Tom Girardi. This is not a step taken lightly or easily. I have great love and respect for Tom and for our years and the lives we built together,” she said in a statement that was reported by People. “It is my absolute wish to proceed through this process with respect and with the privacy that both Tom and I deserved … I request others give us that privacy as well.”

But she was a little more forthcoming with the reality-show cameras. The June 9 episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills showed Jayne informing her castmates of her decision to divorce Tom in a text message. “This will be tough,” she wrote, thanking her friends for their support. Two episodes later, on June 23, she spoke to her castmates about the decision at an Election Night party. “I literally made a decision that I had to,” she said. Jayne continued that she “tried to talk and tried to work it out” with Tom but was “met with such resistance.” Jayne added to the group, “It also doesn’t serve me to talk a lot about what is happening legally or will happen legally because I am married to somebody who’s very good in that area.” Later, at dinner with castmate Lisa Rinna, Jayne said, “He left me no room, and that’s the only way I can say it right now.”

November 10, 2020: The fight over money starts almost immediately

Jayne asked Girardi to pay spousal support as well as legal fees, according to reports one week after her filing. This request drew attention to Jayne’s previous comment on a 2017 episode of Andy Cohen’s Then & Now, when she said, “I don’t have a prenup.”

In that episode, she had said that such an agreement would not mean much, considering her now-estranged husband’s work. (He was the lawyer on the Erin Brockovich case.) “I’m married to a very powerful lawyer … a prenup wouldn’t stand in his way anyway. So it doesn’t matter whether you had one or you didn’t, it’s going to be all Tom’s way, I assure you … He’ll rip that piece of paper to shreds in two seconds!” Late in November, Girardi asked the court to end spousal support and for Jayne to cover attorney’s fees, according to People.

December 2, 2020: ‘Scam’ divorce allegations ensue

In December 2020, reps for families of Lion Air Flight JT 610 crash victims— whom Girardi had represented — alleged that he, his firm, and Jayne owed “tens of millions” to clients and others who had worked on the case. The lawsuit against them, filed in Chicago federal court, claimed, “At the heart of this deception is Defendant Girardi and his need to fund outrageous lifestyles for himself and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Erika Jayne.”

The lawsuit also claims that “to keep up their celebrity status, Tom and Erika must project a public image of obscene wealth at all times, and at whatever the cost … as a result, and most egregiously, Tom has resorted to embezzling the proceeds of settlements that should have been directed to his clients.”

“While Erika publicly filed for divorce this month, on information and belief, that ‘divorce’ is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money from those that seek to collect on debts owed by Tom and his law firm [Girardi Keese],” court papers also alleged.

The suit also claimed that Girardi’s  now-shuttered firm was “on the verge of financial collapse and locked in a downward spiral of mounting debts and dwindling funds” and that he and the law practice “tried in vain to forestall the payment of these debts with hollow promises, excuses, misdirection, and outright fraud.”

On the July 14 episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Jayne dismissed the allegations that her divorce was a “sham.” “The things that are being said are just wrong,” she told Rinna and Kyle Richards over FaceTime. “What’s being said, I mean, it’s insane, that my divorce is a sham,” she added. “But nobody cares about the facts.” Richards went on to ask if Jayne knew anything that had been happening with Girardi Keese during her marriage. “You have to remember: It is the firm that they’re dragging in,” Jayne replied. “So they’re suing the firm, and I’m being attached to it.” During a confessional, she declined to answer how she learned about the case or why she was named in one of the lawsuits.

January 2021: The legal problems get even worse

Girardi and his firm were “forced into” bankruptcy about a month later, after creditors claimed they were owed millions, Reuters said. The judge overseeing a Chicago civil case said that Girardi “misappropriated” a minimum of $2 million that was awarded to victims’ families in the plane crash and froze assets belonging to him and his firm, according to the Los Angeles Times. The judge also said that he was referring the situation to federal prosecutors for criminal inquiry.

Girardi’s law partner, Robert Keese, sued him over money, and Wells Fargo Financial Services also hit him with a suit. Meanwhile, Girardi said in one case that he’s broke, according to the New York Post. In early January, Durkin lifted the asset freeze. (For a complete overview of the many lawsuits, see Westlaw Today’s summary .) On March 9, the California Bar Association stripped Girardi of his law license, the New York Post reported.

February 1, 2021: Girardi is placed under conservatorship

In January, Girardi’s brother, Robert, asked a court to grant him temporary conservatorship, claiming the disgraced lawyer couldn’t care for himself because of a cognitive issue, according to E! Online. Robert claimed in a court filing that his brother’s “current condition has sadly deteriorated to the point where he cannot care for himself without assistance … his short-term memory is severely compromised and, on information and belief, he is often not oriented as to date, time or place.”

T​​his claim came about one month after Girardi’s civil lawyer intimated in court that given his advanced age, there might be issues with “his mental competence,” E! Online also said.

On February 1, a judge deemed Robert Girardi “temporary conservator” with the “power to contract” for him. He underwent a cognitive assessment on February 26 and was diagnosed with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease as well as dementia. Robert Girardi was appointed permanent conservator in June, according to People.

During a remote court hearing, Thomas Girardi pushed back against the order, with Us Weekly quoting him as saying: “Obviously, I disagree with the conservatorship altogether.”

July 2021: Jayne has to face Girardi’s ex-clients and firm

The Ruigomez family, who was represented by Girardi against PG&E utility company following an explosion, says he stopped distributing their settlement to them. A judge said on July 6 that they could “continue their collection efforts against Erika and third-party transferees,” as part of Girardi’s personal bankruptcy proceedings, court filings show. On July 7, Jayne posted a GIF of herself saying, “The ice queen can take it” to Instagram.

The trustee handling Girardi Keese’s bankruptcy case filed court papers on July 14 claiming that Jayne and her companies owe the firm $25 million. “None of the Receivables owed by the Defendants [Jayne] to the Debtor [Girardi Keese] have been repaid to the Debtor and remain outstanding,” court papers state. “Plaintiff is informed and believes and, on that basis alleges thereon, that defendant Erika has used her glamor and notoriety to continue to aid and abet in sham transactions that have occurred with respect to large transfers of assets from the Debtor to the Defendants.”

July 2021: Jayne publicly feuds with bankruptcy lawyers 

On July 18, one of Jayne’s fans tweeted: “There are 2 types of lawyers. Legal eagles And Bottom feeders The ass is the latter. Fuck Ronnie McDonald and his slimy, lying, fake ass internet JSD,” referring to Ronald Richards, special litigation counsel in Girardi Keese’s bankruptcy case. (In that capacity, he’ll probe whether the firm wrongly moved funds from the firm to Jayne, Reuters explained.) Jayne retweeted this missive, including a GIF of Heath Ledger’s Joker clapping and the words “Clown ass.” Jayne also commented “Low budget at best” when another fan claimed Richards wasn’t qualified.

This trolling apparently stems from bad blood between them. Jayne had fought to keep Richards off the case, claiming in court filings that he made nearly 300 social-media posts about the case and/or her since December 2020.

Richards responded to Jayne’s statements, telling US Weekly: “We cannot help but point out the irony that she previously complained about comments made about her. However, now in a transparent attempt to deflect scrutiny from the source of her mass amounts of capital she is spending, she has now resorted to weaponizing her vast platform to hurl low-brow insults and mean tweets.”

Meanwhile, Jayne’s lawyers in her husband’s bankruptcy case asked to withdraw from the proceeding on June 15, saying in court papers that “the relationship of trust and confidence that is essential to a properly functioning attorney-client relationship has broken down and, in the good faith assessment of counsel, the relationship is irreparable.”

The New York Post points out that this request came shortly after The Housewife and the Hustler documentary, which chronicled Jayne and Girardi’s legal problems, was released. Two days later, however, they filed paperwork to stay on the case. Yet on July 6, Evan Borges, a partner at Greenberg Gross, filed papers to take over Jayne’s representation from Jayne’s previous lawyers at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP. Reuters reported that, according to court records, Borges had been representing Jayne alongside her Dinsmore lawyers since June 24.

There’s more, of course

This doesn’t quite fit into the category of legal problems, but it’s worth mentioning that Jayne alleged her husband had an affair — with a California judge. People, citing a source, reported that Jayne thought Girardi was cheating on her. Us Weekly notes that Jayne posted and then took down purported screenshots of texts, claiming they showed her husband’s liaison. “She was f–king my husband Tom Girardi and he was paying her Saks bill and paying for her plastic surgery,” Jayne reportedly wrote.

Jayne has also spoken about the proceedings and controversies around her. During a RHOBH episode this season, she told several co-stars: “I’m gonna give you a lesson that I’ve learned … You see what’s happening to me today. Please, look at your bank accounts. You have to.” She also stated: “Don’t ignore it … The more money your husband makes, the more they shut you out.” She has also denied that her divorce was a sham during the show, calling her estranged husband “a piece of shit” who “steals from widows and orphans.” “People think that Erika Jayne brought down Tom Girardi,” she added in a confessional. “Tom Girardi brought down Tom Girardi.” At a meeting with Richards, Jayne told her castmate, “I have such a story to tell. I can’t tell it, because it’s not the right time.”

The Complete History of Erika Jayne’s Legal Problems