Friday, July 23, 2021

Genis v. Schainbaum (Cal. Ct. App. - July 22, 2021)

Sometimes an opinion is interesting not because of any doctrinal complexity, but simply because it describes a particular participant.

The lawsuit here involves one lawyer suing another lawyer for malpractice.  The lawyer who's the plaintiff is Darryl Genis, a well-known Santa Barbara DUI attorney.  The lawyer who's the defendant represented Mr. Genis in his federal criminal prosecution for willful tax evasion based upon the failure to file taxes for 2009, 2010 and 2011.  Mr. Genis alleged that his lawyer gave him bad advice in that prosecution, which resulted not only in Mr. Genis pleading guilty and going to prison for two years, but also being ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution and penalties to the government.  So Mr. Genis sues.

The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the Court of Appeal affirms, both holding that since Mr. Genis isn't actually innocent of the offenses to which he pled guilty, he can't sue.  Those decisions are very much in line with existing law, so there's no real surprise there.

The opinion nonetheless made me wonder about Mr. Genis.  How does an attorney think he can get away with not filing taxes at all for years?  And since, according to the Court of Appeal, the central point of the plea deal with the feds was to enable Mr. Genis to keep his law license (because the deal made sure that the word "fraud" wasn't part of the record), I wondered if the plan worked.

So I looked up Mr. Genis' bar record, at which point I discovered this prior discipline as well as this one.  Both of those past events are, in my mind, relatively serious, but -- luckily for Mr. Genis -- didn't result in lengthy suspensions from the practice of law.

There was an additional active disciplinary complaint as well, which I assumed stemmed from the whole tax evasion thing (and indeed it did).  The records on that were incomplete, but I was able to find a newspaper article that helpfully described both Mr. Genis' current status as well as his prior plights.  (As well as contained a pretty darn good photograph of the guy.)  Apparently the State Bar judge has recommended that Mr. Genis be suspended for two years, even though the State Bar asked that he be disbarred.

Interesting stuff about an attorney who's (hopefully) unlike most other California lawyers.