Catherine J. Swysen

Catherine J. Swysen, Managing Partner, Sanger Swysen and Dunkle

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, driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, 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 Université 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,  and the United States Supreme Court.

Ms. Swysen served as a Lawyer Representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, 2008-2010.  She served as President of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association in 2013.  She is a member of The Colleges of Law Santa Barbara & Ventura, Board of Trustees and serves on the Executive Committee. 


Ms. Swysen is a member of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association American Bar Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.  She is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.      She has obtained an AV® Preeminent™ rating from Martindale-Hubbell.     


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 a Past President of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee (2016-2018) and currently serves on the Board as its Chief Financial Officer.  Ms. Swysen is the President of the Fund for Refugee Initiatives (formerly Chad Relief Foundation) 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 FRI  at http://www.


Ms. Swysen is fluent in French.