Catherine J. Swysen

Managing Partner

Catherine J. Swysen, managing partner in the firm, is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer.  She has handled major criminal and civil cases in the State and Federal courts.

Ms. Swysen represents people accused of felony and misdemeanor offenses including murder, death penalty, vehicular manslaughter, embezzlement, theft, drunk driving (DUI, DWI, driving under the influence), domestic violence, assaults, batteries, sex offenses and regulatory offenses.

Ms. Swysen handles civil litigation for the firm, including selected personal injury, civil rights and business cases.  She defends individuals and companies in civil litigation.  She litigates cases in State and Federal court.

Ms. Swysen draws upon her experience as a teacher and former employee of the University of California to handle educational matters for both students and faculty in administrative and disciplinary matters at the University of California, California State University and Santa Barbara City College.

Ms. Swysen earned her License in History from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (1984) and Juris Doctorate (1994) from Santa Barbara College of Law.

Ms. Swysen is admitted to practice by the State Bar of California, U.S. District Courts for the Central, Southern, Northern and Eastern Districts of California, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.

Ms. Swysen is President of the Board of the Santa Barbara Women's Political Committee.


Ms. Swysen is a member of the American Bar Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Women Defenders, Association of California Deuce Attorneys, Santa Barbara County Bar Association, Santa Barbara Inns of Court, Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Lawyers Bar Association (Co-chair 1996-1998) and Federal Bar Association (Past President of the Central Coast Chapter 2005-2006).  She has obtained an AV® Preeminent™ rating from Martindale-Hubbell. She is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.          

Ms. Swysen is a past President of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association.  She has served on the Board of Directors of the  Barristers Club of Santa Barbara and Death Penalty Focus.  She served as a Delegate to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference.   
Ms. Swysen received the Beulah W. Engelsberg Award from the American Civil Liberties Union in 1991.  She was recognized by the California State Senate and the California State Assembly for Civil Liberties work in 1991.  In 1999, she was awarded the Order of the Reasonable Doubt by the Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. She was named the Lawyer of the Year by the Santa Barbara Women Lawyers in 2001. She received the Richard Abbe Humanitarian Award from the Santa Barbara County Bar for her international relief work in 2009.
Ms. Swysen is the President of the Chad Relief Foundation (CRF) and has made numerous trips to the country to further relief efforts for refugees from the Central Republic of Africa and for the local population. See the work of the CRF at
Ms. Swysen is fluent in French.

SANTA BARBARA Office:  222 East Carrillo Street, Suite 300, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
SANTA MARIA Office:  301 East Cook Street, Suite A, Santa Maria, California 93454

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Sanger Swysen Dunkle recognized by Best Lawyers 2021
Robert M Sanger recognized by Best Lawyers 2021

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