A private defense attorney at the center of some of Santa Barbara’s biggest DUI cases has again been accused of misconduct and flouting courtroom rules. Darryl Genis — already in the State Bar of California’s crosshairs and facing a 90-day suspension of his right to practice law — is charged with photographing and tampering with the private notes of a prosecutor in a recent DUI trial, then lying to a judge when confronted with the allegations.
The incident was recorded by a courtroom surveillance camera and the footage is included in the case’s public legal file. The Santa Barbara Independent has obtained a copy of the video and published it below.
Genis is charged with contempt of court, an offense he’s been found guilty of before, and is this time facing three specific allegations: “abusing the process of the court by willfully deceiving the court,” “violating rules of court by photographing opposing counsel’s trial notes,” and “abusing the process of the court by interfering with the opposing counsel’s trial notes.” He’s been ordered to appear before Judge Donna Geck on August 1 to answer to the counts but maintains he did nothing wrong.
“An unsworn accusation was made,” Genis said in an email on Sunday. “I tendered the equivalent of a plea of not guilty. I am not guilty of any of the three unsworn allegations. I look forward to being exonerated after Judge Geck hears the evidence and applies the law to it.” If an attorney is found in contempt, a rare occurrence in Santa Barbara’s court system, their punishment can range from a chastisement to a monetary sanction to jail time. Depending on the severity of the penalty, attorneys may be required to report themselves to the State Bar.
In the July 17 court order, Judge Brian Hill — who was presiding over the DUI case in question — details how on June 9, prosecutor Justin Greene announced to him that Genis had “deliberately disturbed or ‘fiddled’ with his papers” during a 15-minute recess in the proceedings. The move was reportedly seen by a witness still sitting on the stand at the time. The case would later end in a mistrial for unrelated reasons.
When Hill confronted Genis with Greene’s accusation, Genis asked, “Does that deserve a response?” After Hill said it did, Genies denied the incident four separate times, explaining he ‘categorically den[ied]’ any interference with the prosecutor’s papers.” Hill told Genis he would review a videotape of the recess to determine the veracity of Green’s charges. The entire back-and-forth that day is transcribed in the court filing and attached to the bottom of this article.
“A review of the videotape reveals that Mr. Genis approached the prosecutor’s counsel table and surveyed his surroundings,” Hill wrote in this week’s order. “He appeared to read and rearrange some documents, then removed his cell phone and photographed something on the prosecutor’s table. Mr. Genis then proceeded to hide a document under a larger stack of papers.” The document was a laminated half-sheet of paper that Greene referenced during his objections.
Hill also noted that in June 2012, he admonished Genis for videotaping a witness and taking photos of people in the audience without the court’s permission. This incident and Hill’s cautioning, said the judge, proves Genis was made aware of such courtroom rules yet ignored them on June 9 to carry out his “willful and contemptuous acts.” The 2012 trial was also prosecuted by Greene.
It’s not clear what effect, if any, the new set of allegations will have on Genis’s pending State Bar case. If the State Bar becomes involved in the latest issue, it would likely open a separate case. In February, State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn ruled that Genis had carried out “multiple acts of wrongdoing, bad faith, significant harm to the administration of justice, indifference toward rectification or atonement for the consequences of his misconduct and contemptuous attitude.”
Honn threw out two of the four allegations against Genis but nevertheless found him guilty of “willful disobedience” for ignoring judges’ repeated orders in two different cases, one in Santa Barbara and one in San Luis Obispo. He recommended Genis’s law practice be suspended for 90 days, his license be placed on probation for two years, and that he attend anger-management counseling. But, Honn noted, Genis’s “lack of insight raises concerns as to whether his misconduct may recur and is particularly troubling to this court.” Honn’s verdict must be upheld by a three-judge State Bar panel and the California Supreme Court.
Genis, who has no prior record with the State Bar, has appealed the ruling. So have State Bar attorneys, who contend the proposed punishment is too lenient considering Genis’s ongoing pattern of misconduct. “In the end, I believe I will be fully exonerated,” Genis told The Independent in February. But even if he’s not, Genis said he would take comfort in knowing that he had “worked tirelessly as an advocate for my clients.” And a suspension would let him spend time with his “beautiful two children and my beloved wife,” he said.
A ruling on both appeals is still pending. In the meantime, Genis continues to practice law.
During last month’s contentious trial with Greene, Genis claimed that the Department of Justice crime lab in Goleta, which processes blood samples for alcohol content in DUI cases, has not followed the requisite technical processes in conducting their analysis. Further, he has alleged that employees of the crime lab swear under penalty of perjury to have followed these procedures. Last week, Genis met with senior prosecuting attorneys Hilary Dozer and Kelly Scott in the chambers of Judge Hill to hash out these issues.
Hill reportedly ordered the District Attorney’s Office to turn over all recent emails sent from county prosecutors to the crime lab and vice versa — as well as between all prosecuting attorneys among themselves on the same subject — to determine whether potentially exculpatory evidence was not provided to defense counsels. According to Genis, no fewer than 6,000 email chains were given to Hill.
But, according to prosecution sources, Hill indicated no potentially exculpatory evidence was dredged up in the effort. Instead, he found that the email chains did show that evidence that might have been used by defense attorneys to impeach a prosecution witness was not turned over in three separate cases. Hill made no finding that there was an intent to withhold this information. It’s unclear what impact this new information may have on the affected cases.
Nick Welsh contributed to this report.