Defense attorney Darryl Genis is in jeopardy of sanctions, according to a notice of disciplinary charges filed by the State Bar of California on July 9. The outspoken DUI lawyer who scored two high-profile victories in the past two years is being investigated for four violations of the State Bar’s Business and Professions Code.
The charges date back to a 2010 case when Genis allegedly made a “false and malicious State Bar complaint” against Deputy District Attorney Brooke Gerard because he was upset that Gerard turned over discovery documents to an attorney who succeeded him on the case. At the time, he wrote about Gerard to the DA’s chief trial attorney, “I will personally make her miserable by increasing her workload until either her office, or the bench denies her the ability to oppose and disrespect me.”
For his part, Genis said his complaint was completely valid and that the above language was taken out of context. “The quoted language says only that I will take her to task by making her prove all her allegations. It does not threaten a Bar complaint and it in no way supports the speculative allegation that I filed the complaint for any reason other than because what she did violated the Business & Professions Code,” he told The Santa Barbara Independent via email.
The second count stems from the first, castigating Genis for writing in a motion that Gerard admitted to committing a misdemeanor by “giving police reports and other sensitive confidential information” to an unauthorized person. Genis maintains that when Gerard admitted to handing over the documents, she was in effect admitting to breaking the law.
Genis’s third demerit was earned during a 2011 San Luis Obispo case when he repeatedly failed to show up for dates in front of a judge, despite the judge’s order that he personally appear. He missed the first date, he said, because he was in the midst of a trial in Santa Barbara. He missed two more because he was at a professional conference. The presiding judge, he said, ordered him to show up on the third date knowing there was no way he could make it. He sent substitutes to all the dates.
Finally, he is accused of violating a judge’s orders during a June 2012 trial not to discuss “bad acts, convictions or arrests of witnesses or the defendant without first being granted approval by the court after discussing the matter outside the presence of a jury.” He violated that order, the document asserts, when questioning police officers Kasi Beutel and Aaron Tudor. Beutel issued the DUI citation that led to Genis’s defense of investigative journalist Peter Lance, and Tudor was videotaped using force to detain DUI suspect Tony Denunzio. Charges were dismissed in both cases — the first by judge, the second by prosecution.
Genis believes that, especially since he underwent field sobriety test training in 2005, he has been a pain in the neck of the DA’s Office, which in turn has been out to get him by pleading code violations and asking judges for contempt charges. (“We do not have a discrete policy for dealing with Mr. Genis,” Stephen Foley, chief deputy DA, told The Independent.) Under California law, Genis has 20 days to respond to the charges and is entitled to a trial overseen by a State Bar Association judge. If the ruling is for suspension or disbarment, the case automatically goes to the California Supreme Court. Genis has no prior disciplinary actions from the State Bar, but was recently found in contempt of court after reportedly calling a prosecutor a “little girl.” He disputes that charge.
On the allegation that Genis disobeyed court orders, his own attorney Arthur Margolis said he “interpreted the extent of the rule different from the judge.” Furthermore, Margolis questioned the integrity of the State Bar altogether, suggesting that it is a political organization afraid of bad PR. Therefore, he said, it overreacts when judges or prosecutors complain. “The extent to which they actually exercise any real independent judgment is minimal,” he said.
Margolis suggested that disciplinary charges are really a means of punishing Genis for provocative behavior inside and outside the courtroom. Of his client he said, “He’s very controversial. I think he’s very creative, I think he’s annoyed a lot of people, and I happen to enjoy him.”