Citing insufficient evidence, a Santa Barbara judge on Friday dismissed contempt charges filed against attorney Darryl Genis by another judicial officer.
After an hour-long hearing, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Donna Geck ruled in favor of Genis, a defense attorney who specializes in driving-under-the-influence cases on the Central Coast.
Genis faced three contempt charges alleging he abused the court process by willfully deceiving the court, violated court rules by photographing opposing counsel’s trial notes and interfered with those trial notes.
Judge Brian Hill filed the complaint last month, alleging Genis deliberately “fiddled” with and rearranged Deputy District Attorney Justin Greene’s notes and used his cell phone to take pictures of documents during a trial court recess on June 9.
Genis’ exoneration comes a year after the popular defense attorney was convicted in a separate contempt of court case.
If found guilty, Genis would have been ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 — the same amount he paid the court last July — or face jail time.
Genis appeared in a Santa Barbara courtroom Friday alongside two defense lawyers and fellow DUI attorneys, Donald Bartell of Riverside and Michael Fremont of San Diego, and Greene sat front row with other district attorney’s staff.
Although the hearing was set so Genis could show cause for why he should not be found guilty, his attorneys denied all allegations and cited other specific court cases arguing the court should have to prove him guilty.
Bartell said Hill’s statements should not be considered as evidence, but hearsay.
“It’s not Mr. Genis’ burden to prove that he’s not guilty,” he said.
After a brief recess to review the cited cases, Geck returned and disagreed, saying Genis had to disprove the complaint because the words of a judicial officer are considered a statement of facts.
She pointed to video and audio recordings the judge secured of the alleged act, along with a transcript from proceedings and previous orders to not take photographs without court permission on May 17, 2012, and June 11, 2012.
Bartell alleged Genis’ Fifth Amendment rights were violated because he wasn’t informed during proceedings that a contempt case had commenced against him, since the filing states Genis denied the accusations four times when Hill asked if he was responsible.
He conceded attorneys don’t have a right to touch opposing counsel’s tables, but said evidence did not exist to show what or whether something had been touched.
“Well we do know what it is because we have the video,” Geck said. “What justification is there for him to touch anything on opposing table? How can you say that there’s no evidence that he did?”
Geck offered to continue the matter if Genis’ attorneys wanted more time, but they returned after another brief recess to refute each charge.
Fremont said Genis did not willfully lie to the court or interfere with court process, nor was there evidence that a photo had been taken or authentication of the courtroom video.
“There’s been no testimony that Mr. Greene was prevented in any way from continuing with the case,” Fremont said. “He had every right to deny the allegation whether or not they occurred. In short, there’s no admissible evidence that supports these specific allegations.”
Geck said she disagreed with the argument that Hill had commenced a contempt proceeding without advising Genis, but ultimately agreed with the defense, dismissing all charges.
“Reluctant as I am to do this, I find that the allegations have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Geck said.
Outside the courtroom, Genis said dismissal of charges explained why he hired two great attorneys to prove his innocence.
His attorneys, who advised Genis not to make any other comments, said they were not surprised by the outcome, just disappointed such minor charges were filed at all.
“The acts did not amount to what was charged,” Fremont said.
“The law was there, the facts were there,” Bartell added, noting that charges cannot be refiled.
Genis will continue to practice law while waiting for final say from a State Bar Court, where in a separate case he has been accused of moral turpitude, making a false and malicious State Bar complaint and for failing to obey court orders.
A State Bar judge threw out two of those charges, recommending Genis be suspended for 90 days, placed on probation for two years, and attend anger-management counseling. State Bar prosecutors appealed that February decision, as did Genis, who asked that all counts be dismissed.