The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law Board of Trustees elects new member

Distinguished local attorney Catherine Swysen (J.D. ’94) joins governing board of region’s leading law school focused on access, opportunity and affordability



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SANTA BARBARA & VENTURA – Catherine Swysen is the newest member of The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law (COL) Board of Trustees. A 1994 graduate of the school’s Santa Barbara campus, Swysen joins the 13-member governance body that oversees the region’s oldest and largest independent law school.

Swysen comes to COL with nearly 25 years of experience as a practicing attorney—her areas of practice spanning criminal, death penalty, appellate, civil, and administrative. She is a partner with Sanger Swysen & Dunkle, a distinguished local firm—with offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria—that specializes in criminal defense and civil litigation in State and Federal courts.

“We have watched with pride Catherine’s continued contributions to the local legal community,” said COL Board Chair Marilyn Anticounti, a fellow COL graduate. “She brings to the board a stellar reputation and enthusiastic commitment to the ongoing success of the Colleges of Law.”

Swysen’s experience in governance includes board and leadership positions with the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, the Santa Barbara County Bar Association, Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Lawyers Bar Association, and Federal Bar Association. She is a recipient of the Beulah W. Engelsberg Award from the American Civil Liberties Union and was recognized by the California State Senate and the California State Assembly for Civil Liberties. Swysen was awarded the Order of the Reasonable Doubt by the Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Lawyers Association in 1999, named the “Lawyer of the Year” by the Santa Barbara Women Lawyers in 2001, and received the Richard Abbe Humanitarian Award from the Santa Barbara County Bar for her international relief work in 2009. She 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.

“I am honored to be invited to join the Board,” said Swysen. “The Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law is a valuable asset and an incredible resource for the people of our coastal communities.  Moreover, in my own experience, the COL provided an opportunity to study under professors who were accomplished practicing lawyers and judges. This education served me well in establishing a litigation practice and is equally valuable to those who pursue transactional work.”

“Few trustees better exemplify the Colleges of Law story than Catherine Swysen,” added Dr. Matthew Nehmer, COL’s Executive Director. “We are privileged to have her at the table as we approach our 50th anniversary as a school founded around the values of opportunity, excellence, and affordability.”

Prior to COL, Swysen earned a degree in history from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium before immigrating to the United States in 1980s. She has lived and worked in the Santa Barbara area for over 30 years.


About The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law:

Established in 1969, The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law (COL) was founded to expand opportunities and broaden access to legal education.  COL is dedicated to a student-centered approach that affords students of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to pursue careers in law or legal-related fields. The Colleges’ faculty advances a real-world perspective and practicality on the application of law and includes practicing attorneys, judges, public servants, and leaders in business and non-profit organizations.  An accredited nonprofit institution, COL offers a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and a Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) program.  Starting in Fall 2018, COL will deliver a pioneering hybrid J.D. degree, the first of its kind in California. COL is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the Juris Doctor program is accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners (CBE) of the State Bar of California.  For more information, visit

The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law is an affiliate of TCS Education System, a nonprofit system of colleges advancing student success and community impact.