Darryl Genis
Paul Wellman (file)

It’s been an especially rough month for Darryl Genis, one of Santa Barbara County’s best known and most embattled attorneys.

First, he pled guilty to multiple counts of willful failure to pay taxes between the years 2005 and 2012, admitting that he shortchanged the IRS $679,958. Genis admitted in some years he didn’t pay the full amount he owed for law practice, and in other years he didn’t pay anything. Genis faces a maximum sentence of three years behind bars. In exchange for the plea, the United States Attorney’s Office agreed not to seek the maximum. Based on court documents, the feds appear poised to recommend Genis be sentenced to two years. Neither Genis nor his attorney returned calls for comment, but the terms of the plea deal allow them to argue for a more lenient sentence. Genis will be required to pay off his debt to the IRS as well, and pay a fine.

[Correction: The original version of this article stated attorney Darryl Genis pled guilty to several counts of federal “tax fraud.” In fact, Genis pled guilty to “willful failure” to file federal income tax returns over a four-year period and to “willful failure” to pay federal income taxes to the tune of nearly $700,000 over an eight-year span. We also reported that the California State Bar Court had issued Genis a letter of admonition in connection with a separate dispute between the state bar and Genis. In that matter, the state bar charged Genis lied in court to Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill. Genis denied the allegations. It should be noted that letters of admonition do not qualify as disciplinary actions according to the State Bar Court.]

Genis was also admonished this month by the State Bar of California court for lying to a judge. Over the years, Genis has earned a reputation for being zealous, outspoken, and confrontational both in and out of the courtroom, speaking with open disrespect for his prosecutorial adversaries as well as the judges themselves. Many of those judges filed complaints against Genis with the State Bar court, which two years ago sanctioned Genis for conduct unbecoming an officer of the court. Genis has long contended that the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office has been out to get him and that prosecutors have frequently crossed many of the same ethical lines of which he’s been accused of transgressing.

One of those prosecutors is Justin Greene, and during a break in a DUI trial in July 2014, Genis moved legal papers on Greene’s desk but did not admit as much when subsequently asked about it by Judge Brian Hill. Hill charged Genis lied to him in court and last week, the California State Bar court issued a letter of admonition against Genis for his behavior. The court concluded that Genis “falsely denied touching the prosecutor’s desk materials when Respondent knew the statement was false.” Genis, in pleadings to the State Bar court, denied the allegations. An admonition is not classified as a disciplinary action by the court.

At the time, Genis told reporters he was upset that Greene objected excessively to almost every question Genis posed to witnesses, and he mocked Greene for keeping a cheat sheet indicating the legal justifications needed to wage such objections. Genis explained he rearranged the papers on Greene’s desk so Green couldn’t find the cheat sheet. All this occurred during a 15-minute break in trial.

Greene notified Judge Hill that Genis “fiddled” with his papers. When Hill asked Genis about this, Genis replied, “Does that deserve a response?” When Hill replied in the affirmative, Genis replied “categorically” in the negative four times, denying he interfered with Greene’s papers. Hill subsequently tried to have Genis prosecuted for contempt of court for lying to a judge, but the charges turned out to hinge on technical complexities not recognized in the moment by officers of the court seeking to prosecute the case. As a result, those charges against Genis were dropped.


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