An appeals board with the State Bar of California slashed the time attorney Darryl Genis should be suspended from practicing law due to courtroom misconduct from three months to just one.
A State Bar court had “sentenced” Genis to a three-month suspension in 2013 for repeatedly defying judges’ instructions and conducting himself in what one judge described as “a confrontational, accusatory, and disdainful” manner. Both Genis and prosecutors with the State Bar appealed. Genis contended it was too harsh and sought a private reproval instead; prosecutors contended it was too weak and demanded a full year’s suspension. In response, the appeals panel cut the proverbial baby not in half, but in thirds, thus allowing Genis to claim two-thirds of a victory.
For the outspoken and ever embattled Genis, this ruling marks the third such victory in the past six months. He was found not guilty in one highly publicized contempt-of-court action brought against him last summer for allegedly rifling through the papers of a prosecuting attorney during a courtroom break and then lying about it to the judge. More recently, an appeals court overturned a contempt action — and $1,000 fine — brought against Genis by Judge Jean Dandona for calling a prosecuting attorney a “little girl.”
The panel of three State Bar judges making up the review panel concluded that Genis had in fact defied very clear and explicit instructions given by two separate judges; they also faulted him for “bullying conduct” — as when he described judges talking “like women in a sewing circle about us lawyers” — that they found “undermines the integrity of the legal profession.”
In that case, Genis was reprimanded for failing to appear in court three times and sending a substitute who lacked the knowledge or ability to settle the case. Genis has conceded his remarks were “flat-out wrong” but said he made them under the mistaken impression the judge in question “was out to get me.” He claimed his substitute attorney never notified him of the judge’s instructions or told the judge that he’d be out of town. While the review panel did not address this in any detail, they concluded Genis’s explanation had “no merit.”
In the same breath, the panel of State Bar judges rejected prosecution arguments that Genis submitted a “false and malicious” State Bar report against a prosecuting attorney or that he was guilty of “moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.” In that case, Genis filed a complaint against a prosecutor who provided evidence to an attorney replacing Genis on a case before the paperwork approving the reassignment had been finalized. In court, Genis charged this action constituted “yet another example of the deputy district attorney acting in ignorance and breaking the law.” While the review panel found Genis’s courtroom remarks “overstated,” they also found his State Bar complaint “factually true.”
The panel concluded some suspension was warranted because Genis violated court orders — rendered repeatedly and with painstaking detail — three times. But they also concluded a lesser sentence was called for because Genis had donated hundreds of hours of free legal services, took on 30 appeals either free or at reduced rates, and had coauthored one of the key legal manuals relied upon by DUI attorneys. In addition, the panel noted this is the first disciplinary action brought against Genis since he started practicing law in 1980.