Judge Richard Honn found that Genis, known for vigorously defending driving-under-the-influence cases on the Central Coast, had a habit of disregarding court orders.
Genis has a reputation for an aggressive style in court, and gets into arguments with prosecutors and judges. He’s been a member of the State Bar since 1980.
He was accused of misconduct, based on the State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, but Honn dismissed two of the four counts: making a false and malicious State Bar complaint and committing an act of moral turpitude. He recommends that the other two, failure to obey court orders, be found true.
Trial was held last fall, with Genis represented by Long Beach attorney David Clare.
His lack of remorse “significantly aggravated” the results, according to Honn’s decision, which was signed Monday.
Genis plans to appeal the two counts, saying there is no precedent for anything near a 90-day suspension for violating court orders.
“In the end, I believe that I will be fully exonerated,” he said.
“And if I am wrong about this outcome, then I take comfort in the fact that I have worked tirelessly as an advocate for my clients for many years, and if a 90-day hiatus from the practice of law is required, it will give me some much desired time to spend with my beautiful two children and my beloved wife.”
The four misconduct counts came from a 25-page complaint filed with the State Bar from the District Attorney’s Office, and Genis said the DA’s Office “has gone to extraordinary lengths to try and muzzle me” due to his effectiveness as a DUI attorney.
For the misconduct allegations in question, Genis was repeatedly ordered to come to trial readiness conferences in person for a San Luis Obispo County case, but sent someone in his place.
He was sanctioned $750 for his failures to attend three of the hearings in April 2011, and the decision was upheld by the appellate court.
His behavior at the Appellate Court was called inappropriate, a “parade of insults and affronts.”
His “repeated tirades and impertinence, and with a tone wholly condescending and accusatory, appellant’s conduct is a serious and significant departure from acceptable appellate practice, or for that matter, practice in any court of law,” the court wrote.
“If left unaddressed, this sort of advocacy demeans the profession, lowers public respect, and conveys the impression that it is acceptable and effective.”
Genis reportedly accused the panel of judges of not reading the briefs and discussing the case with the trial court, demanding that they admit it.
In a Santa Barbara Superior Court DUI case, Judge Brian Hill ordered both attorneys not to make allegations of prior misconduct about Santa Barbara police officers Kasi Beutel and Aaron Tudor without permission.
Both officers have been involved in high-profile criminal DUI cases that Genis worked on in recent years, defending residents Peter Lance and Tony Denunzio.
Lance’s case was dismissed by a judge after Genis argued that police had no reason to pull him over.
Denunzio’s arrest came after a controversial traffic stop in which he was pulled over and then repeatedly struck and Tasered by Tudor.
Most of that exchange was caught on video, since Tudor’s vehicle was fitted with a trial version of patrol car cameras the community called for after Lance’s case.
Genis violated the court order and was admonished by Hill, and a court found that Genis’ behavior had been “undeniably unethical.”
State Bar Court’s purpose isn’t to punish attorneys, but protect the public, courts and legal profession, Honn wrote.
Genis has no prior record with the State Bar, and was given credit for “zealously” defending his clients, often for a reduced fee.
He belongs to several professional organizations, a homeowner’s association for Hollister Ranch, and has written books regarding DUI law.
Honn recommended a two-year suspension that would come into play if Genis violates terms of his probation.
He also recommended a 90-day actual suspension and anger-management counseling twice a month for two years or until a court finds Genis could stop early.
Under probation, he would have to comply with all State Bar rules of conduct, file regular reports with the Office of Probation, and pass a State Bar ethics school course.
He can appeal the decision to the State Bar’s review department within 30 days of the decision being filed, which was Feb. 3. State Bar Court judges have the power to recommend that the California Supreme Court suspend or disbar attorneys who commit misconduct, so Honn’s recommendations will be forwarded to the California Supreme Court.
While Genis has a clean record – until now – with the State Bar, he has had troubles in Santa Barbara Superior Court.
Judge Jean Dandona found him in contempt for calling opposing counsel, Hannah Lucy, a “little girl” in court, and fined him $1,000 last summer.
A few judges refuse to hear a case in which he is the attorney of record.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office filed a 25-page complaint about his behavior, reporting misconduct in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Del Norte counties, according to Honn, but the court only discussed the allegations in the notice of disciplinary charges filed last July.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley said she had no comment on the State Bar’s recommendation.