Darryl Genis (left) celebrates with his attorney Michael Fremont after Judge Geck's ruling (Aug. 1, 2014)

Paul Wellman

Darryl Genis (left) celebrates with his attorney Michael Fremont after Judge Geck's ruling (Aug. 1, 2014)

Genis Cleared of Contempt-of-Court Charges

Judge Says Video Evidence Wasn’t Enough to Prove Allegations

Friday, August 1, 2014
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A prominent Santa Barbara defense attorney accused of tampering with and photographing an opposing prosecutor’s notes during a recent DUI trial has been cleared of any wrongdoing. Darryl Genis, facing three allegations in a contempt-of-court complaint, emerged victorious after an hour-long hearing Friday afternoon in front of Judge Donna Geck. “This is a classic case of why you hire good lawyers even when you’re innocent,” he told reporters outside the courtroom.

In her ruling, which she said she was “reluctant” to give, Geck declared that the allegations had not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. She provided no further explanation. The official counts were “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.” Each carried a potential $1,000 fine or five days in jail.

The charges arose out of a June 9 incident in Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom that was caught on surveillance camera. Pointing to that visual evidence and transcripts of the hearing, Hill alleged in the contempt filing that Genis had snapped a picture of prosecutor Justin Greene’s papers with his cellphone before hiding a document under a stack of files. Genis denied the allegations at the time, and his attorneys during this week’s hearing — Michael Fremont from San Diego and Donald Bartell of Riverside — reiterated his innocence to Geck.

Fremont and Bartell presented a number of arguments for why the statements and exhibits included in the contempt-of-court complaint should not be considered as evidence, claiming hearsay, lack of foundation, information not provided under oath, questionable authenticity of the surveillance video, and so forth. They also argued that when Hill initially confronted Genis with Greene’s accusations, it was unclear what exactly Hill was alleging — the judge’s language was vague and incomplete, said Fremont and Bartell — and that Genis had every right under due process to defend himself against the charges at the time. That denial, they said, could not be construed as “deceiving the court.”

Genis’s defense attorneys also argued that the surveillance footage failed to prove Genis had taken a picture as no flash could be seen and no one in the courtroom testified to seeing the attorney use his phone to capture an image. Geck, who appeared incredulous if not slightly impatient with Fremont and Bartell’s arguments during the hearing, said she “couldn’t agree” no photo was taken. Geck also interjected when Bartell said there was no evidence that Genis had touched Greene’s materials. “How can you say that?” Geck asked in reference to the video footage.

Left to right: Journalist Peter Lance, attorney Donald Bartlett, attorney Michael Fremont (background), and Darryl Genis talk to reporters after Judge Donna Geck dismissed the contempt of court case against Genis. (Aug. 1, 2014)
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Left to right: Journalist Peter Lance, attorney Donald Bartlett, attorney Michael Fremont (background), and Darryl Genis talk to reporters after Judge Donna Geck dismissed the contempt of court case against Genis. (Aug. 1, 2014)

Fremont and Bartell also stated that in trials, exhibits belong to the court, not to individual lawyers, and that attorneys frequently pick up and move documents from each other’s tables. They also noted that Genis’s supposed actions took place during a recess in the proceedings, and that while Genis had been admonished by Hill in a previous trial to not record with his phone, Hill only specified video and audio recordings, not still images. Even if Genis had touched Greene’s notes, they went on, it didn’t interfere with Greene’s ability to continue prosecuting the case when they came back from recess and so wouldn’t amount to “abusing the process of the court.” Geck, at the time, appeared unconvinced. “But what justification does he have to touch anything?” she asked.

Nevertheless, Geck’s ruling came swiftly and decisively, and Genis and his attorneys celebrated in the courthouse hallway afterward. Fremont said it was unfortunate that the court and the District Attorney’s Office had made such strong accusations in the first place, and he said he hoped all parties could move forward. Fremont explained “things happen” in the “heat of the moment” of trial, and that it’s not uncommon for lawyers to lose their temper or “make stupid statements.” Even so, he went on, whatever acts Genis carried out didn’t justify the charges, and the video didn’t show the evidence of what the allegations claimed.

Judge Donna Geck
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Judge Donna Geck

When asked what the video did show him doing, Genis coyly responded, “I was collecting a piece of evidence,” before Bartell cut him off and said his client would not be issuing any more statements.

In February, a judge with the State Bar of California recommended that Genis be suspended for 90 days for committing misconduct and “multiple acts of wrongdoing” in two unrelated cases. Genis has appealed that ruling, as have State Bar attorneys, who argue the recommendation is too lenient. A ruling on the appeals is pending.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"I was collecting a piece of evidence." Cute, DG. Keep your eyes on your own paper next time and maybe there won't be any confusion about what you are or are not doing.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2014 at 6:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OJ Simpson had sharp lawyers, too.

Moonrunner (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2014 at 8:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

" in trials, exhibits belong to the court, not to individual lawyers" - LegendaryYeti, if you don't like the law and have no respect for the decisions of Superior Court judges, why not grow a pair and go round up a lynch mob.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
August 1, 2014 at 9:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh, Donna
Oh, Donna
Oh, Donna
Oh, Donna

I knew a Judge
Donna was her name
Since she dismissed charges against me
I'll do it all again.

Cause I love causing trouble
Donna, I can't help it, it's just me!
It's just me!

Thank you Ritchie Valens (copied and posted from a Noozhawk blogger) BRILLIANT

rukidding (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 6:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow. This is why attorneys have such stellar reputations. Lies, legal jibber jabber, and smoke and mirrors. Hard to respect the decision of the judge on this one. "Who you going to believe, me, or your lyin' eyes?!"

SBLover35 (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 6:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

rekidding: Excellent!

Once again, Genis, the slimesnake, gets away with bad behavior. But St. Darwin is patient. He's got him squarely in his sights and will merely wait until next time this idiot thinks himself above the law.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 8:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Genis, with help from the considerable and creative talents of Don Bartell and Mike Fremont, is certainly making the Santa Barbara judiciary look like the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. I am not sure which is worse, Keystone Cops or Keystone Judges.

capmotion (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 9:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

As I recall from the hearing, 30 exhibits were spread across tables shared between lawyers. Court was in recess in middle of Genis' cross of the key prosecution with (Dean Warden) who is sitting on the witness stand outside the camera view. He told DA he could not tell whether Genis was looking at exhibits, or something else. Also told them he could not say Genis took pictures. Genis needs glasses to see close up and he does have "over 40" APP on IPhone. Bailiff couldn't say Genis wasn't looking at exhibits or that Genis took pictures. Video shows DDA sitting in back row watching Genis but Greene says nothing: he knows Genis locating exhibits for use in cross examination. Hill warned both for contempt; improperly cited Genis for 'abuse of process'. Greene objected 63 times in 129 minutes to require the witness (Janine Arvizu) to return from (New Mexico) at Genis' expense. Objecting for improper purpose is contempt by abuse of process, but Hill didn't cite Greene at all.

May I suggest that you first look at the facts before you pronounce judgement or bemoan the state of our legal system.

petersotte (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 12:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Santa Barbara Superior Court appears to be out of control and in the deep end without water wings. I have never seen a court that is as prone to trying to find attorneys in contempt as that one out there, and that brutish method of courtroom management bespeaks insecurity and incompetence on the part of that bench. Cops who carelessly toss around obstruction of justice allegations, and judges who recklessly toss around contempt allegations, and parents who communicate with their kids by the back of their hands instead of by the strength of their suasion, are an equal and despicable breed. Were it not for the likes of Genis, Bartell, Fremont and others of their ilk who are willing to stand against the gusts of unprincipled faction, the laughably labeled "administration of justice" system would be even more out of whack than it clearly is.

capmotion (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 3:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We have a system of justice that gives the accused every benefit of the doubt. By and large, this is a good thing, much better than other systems. However, many times our system results in people who violate the laws and norms of society to escape censure because of the rigor necessary to convict them. I'm willing to accept the old "better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man go to prison." All that said, I saw what I saw in that video and whatever Genis was doing was neither ethical nor moral. His surreptitious attitude during the whole event demonstrates that he himself knew that what he was doing was wrong. He may be innocent in the eyes of the law and he is entitled to do his little victory dance in the end zone, but I will never respect the man and will always harbor suspicions of his honor.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 7:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well this is good news. No reason to want people to behave badly whether we personally like them or not.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 7:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well said, Ken_Volok

14noscams (anonymous profile)
August 2, 2014 at 10:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well put and very simply said Ken_Volok!

NavAiRecon2 (anonymous profile)
August 3, 2014 at 5:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)


JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
August 4, 2014 at 9:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Since when do you need evidence to convict someone?

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
August 4, 2014 at 11:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Something sure happened in the courtroom that day, and DG looked guilty as hell there in the video. But I don't have any problem with the result if there was insufficient evidence to prove what happened one way or another.

I think what happened here is a relatively inexperienced judge [with a reputation for laziness and who has clashed with DG several times in the past] failed to put together a bulletproof contempt case, and some excellent lawyers using a sound legal argument convinced an even less-experienced judge that there wasn't enough evidence to sustain the allegation. That's all.

So be it. I do think the electorate needs to remember this matter when these two judges [Hill and Geck] stand for election, whenever that may be. I was underwhelmed with Hill's description of what Genis was doing at the wrong end of the table as "fiddling" with papers. That seemed a pretty vague word to me for a judge to use in such a serious context, but I've been unimpressed with Brian Hill for a very long time now.

The bottom line is that I think DG dodged a bullet here, and I don't think he's as smooth as he thinks he is. I believe sooner or later his antics are going to come around and really bite him.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
August 4, 2014 at 4:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Draxor: "Once again, Genis, the slimesnake, gets away with bad behavior."

See Drax, here's the problem: Bad behavior goes unpunished, unnoticed or in some cases even rewarded. Starting to see the problem yet?

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
August 5, 2014 at 11:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Interestingly, Judge Hill has recused himself from all of Genis' cases. Looks to me like Genis won the war. Hill is an embarassment to the bench.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
August 6, 2014 at 9:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

AZ2SB - No one in LE or the DA's office or Superior Court in Santa Barbara says evidence is needed for a conviction. We have judges who are stone deaf to anything other than perjury from cops and the DA, disregard defense evidence, and gladly issue judgements based on scenarios that are inconsistent with reality, based on cops' ability to see around corners and through buildings to witness crimes, drivers assumed to travel while looking out driver's side windows in order to see signs not visible while looking through their windshield, people with physical disabilities convicted of crimes they're not physically capable of committing based on police reports that are 100% perjury, etc.
What we DO have is a decades-long tradition of retaliation against individuals who acknowledge corruption and refuse to support it, malicious prosecution filed by the DA to destroy individuals financially and destroy their professional reputations for personal gain. We also have the same county counsel who decided that malicious litigation filed by DA Tom Sneddon to destroy his opponent for the DA position (Gary Danby) wasn't an action taken based on his position as DA, because the county resident Sneddon filed the litigation against just HAPPENED to be running against Sneddon. I'm sure we have judges who haven't forgotten the fate of Judge Diana Hall, who refused to follow Sneddon's order in her judgement on a case.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
August 6, 2014 at 10:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

blahblahmoreblah: We have a cop who said under penalty of perjury, a felony, that he witnessed a suspected drunk driver change lanes without signaling when they were miles from a road with more than one lane, and preferred to break bones rather than get a suspected DUI off the road. This must be Darryl Genis's problem; it's not a problem for the DA or Superior Court judges or the Indy.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
August 6, 2014 at 10:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's reassuring to see here that public awareness of the SB Superior Court's malfeasance bordering upon corruption is growing.
The conspiracy of dunces among Bill Brown, Cam Sanchez, Joyce Dudley, Brian Hill, and (most egregiously) Frank Ochoa and their obsequious minions is a scandal worthy of a Grand Jury's attention.

From the moment an accused is handcuffed, he/she will be brutalized by a County Jail custody staff that is, in the main, sadistic and ruthlessly duplicitous. When transferred from jail to court (in full view of the public as the accused are shuffled across Figueroa St. in orange jumpsuits and chains), they're then bullied, intimidated, and physically abused by Court Bailiff personnel. Dare to glance at the jury during your trial (if you're brave enough to face the plea-bargain-refusal wrath of vindictive Assistant D.A.s) and you'll get a punch in the ribs on the elevator ride downstairs at the end of the day. No marks, just breathless pain and the promise of much more to come should one dare complain. Bathroom breaks? Forget about it.

Then, because our judges commit fundamental errors of evidence admission and procedural blunders, if you're convicted (likely, as the D.A. will do ANYthing to win a conviction without regard to truth or any semblance of justice), buckle up for the most inconsistent sentencing anywhere in the State of California, as Hill--a former "hanging D.A." is now a "hanging judge", and Ochoa looks the other way when Hispanics are up for plea-deal sentencing, while hammering anyone who dares go before a jury and screw up his frequent vacation plans. (Oh, and have we forgotten how he managed to get DUI charges against his faux-celebrity news-reading wife and Council-vet Iya Falcone swept aside?)

This city is sick, and at the heart of it all is a Board of Supervisors and a City Council afraid to rein it all in. They should have fired Brown and Sanchez years ago, but it's all about standing for re-election, isn't it?
You bet'cha.

Beachgirl77 (anonymous profile)
August 7, 2014 at 9:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Photo caption: "Daryl Genis gets a backrub from his attorney Michael Fremont and the rubbing is creating static which causes Genis's hair to stand on end."

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2014 at 3:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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