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John L. Littrell


John is an accomplished trial lawyer who specializes in the defense of complex criminal cases and civil litigation. 


John represents individuals and businesses under investigation for all types of fraud (including wire fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, mail fraud, and securities fraud) as well as corruption and bribery, violations of international trade and export laws, anti-kickback statutes and “Stark” laws, and other regulatory offenses.  He advises clients under government scrutiny in highly regulated industries, including health care, government contracts, finance, and international trade.  He has represented clients from all over the world and led investigations in cases involving extensive conduct abroad. John has significant experience in high-stakes cases, having represented clients charged with Racketeering (“RICO”) violations, terrorism and capital murder.

John has more than fifteen years of experience negotiating with the United States Department of Justice and other state and local prosecuting agencies. He has persuaded prosecutors to narrow or dismiss potential criminal charges, and he has convinced judges to dismiss indictments based on obscure and novel constitutional challenges. If and when a case is prosecuted, John dissects the charging document with creative, original motions. He has successfully challenged illegal searches and interrogations, resulting in the suppression of some or all of the evidence and leading to complete dismissals in multiple cases.  At trial, John applies sophisticated techniques to identify jurors who will treat his clients fairly and presents them with a compelling narrative to support a verdict of not guilty.   

John has also had considerable success in getting wrongful convictions reversed, notwithstanding the extremely high standard that applies to post-trial motions and post-conviction petitions.  He has obtained complete reversals of two death sentences, multiple life sentences, and decades of prison terms.  John also has an extensive background in immigration law, having represented scores of non-citizens.  He is an expert in negotiating “immigration-safe” pleas for non-citizens and seeking post-conviction relief for individuals facing deportation or removal based on inaccurate legal advice.   

John graduated in the top five percent of his class at UCLA School of Law.  He was recognized as the best oral advocate in the Moot Court program. After law school, John was an Associate at Morrison & Foerster, LLP in San Francisco, CA.  He served as a law clerk for the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena. John went on to serve as a Deputy Federal Public Defender in the Central District of California, where he handled hundreds of challenging and unique cases, tried more than twenty federal cases, handled several federal appeals and writs, and served as the Chief of the Los Angeles Trial Unit. John supervised 30 lawyers, led training in trial advocacy, and coordinated district-wide challenges to federal prosecutions.  He co-authored the Motions Practice chapter of the 2010 treatise Defending a Federal Criminal Case.  He was also an Adjunct Professor at Loyola Law School, where he taught Evidence for Trial Lawyers.

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Representative Matters

  • Representing an Alaskan physician accused of tax evasion and obstruction; John defeated the prosecutors’ attempt to charge his client with tax obstruction based on an unfairly expansive and vague interpretation of the law.  The Supreme Court later agreed with the analysis set forth in John’s motion to dismiss in Marinello v. United States, No. 16-1144 (2018).
  • Representing a young man accused of capital murder for killing a TSA Officer at the Los Angeles International Airport; John led a team that persuaded the U.S. Department of Justice to abandon its effort to seek the death penalty.  
  • Leading an extensive international investigation on behalf of a Philippine national accused of smuggling weapons and explosives to the United States; John’s investigation exposed government misconduct leading to a formal investigation of the FBI by the Office of the Inspector General.
  • Trying one of the first federal prosecutions of a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles; John defeated the prosecutor’s effort to seek a five-year prison term and after over ten years of creative litigation, his client has never served any prison time.
  • Obtaining reversal of a nearly thirty-year-old capital murder conviction in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and a published decision vindicating the constitutional right to present a complete defense at trial. Cudjo v. Ayers, 698 F.3d 752 (9th 2012).  John also defeated the government’s subsequent attempt to seek review in the United States Supreme Court.  
  • Representing an international businessman who was accused of offering illegal gratuities to government officials; seeking new trial following the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2355 (2016).
  • Securing a mistrial in a fraud case involving the use of telecommunications technology to process credit card transactions. John uncovered and presented evidence that another person was responsible for the fraud.
  • Winning acquittals in several criminal cases, including an aggravated assault case and a case charging the client with trafficking in over 200 kilos of cocaine.
  • Getting an order suppressing all of the evidence in a case where the client was facing a mandatory life sentence for possessing large amount of narcotics.

Professional Recognition

  • Selected to the Best Lawyers® list for 2018-19
  • Lawyer Delegate to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, 2017-2020