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John L. Littrell


John is an accomplished trial lawyer who specializes in 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 firearms and explosives.  He has represented clients from all over the world and led investigations in cases involving extensive conduct abroad.

A specialist in high-stakes trials and appeals, John has prevailed at every level in the federal system, including the District Court, the Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.  

John has more than fifteen years of experience negotiating with the United States Department of Justice and state and local prosecuting agencies. He has persuaded prosecutors to narrow or dismiss potential charges, and he has convinced judges to dismiss indictments based on obscure and novel constitutional challenges. If 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 evidence and leading to complete dismissals.  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.  He has reversed two death sentences, multiple life sentences, and decades of prison terms for a variety of offenses. 

John has an extensive background in immigration law.  He is an expert in negotiating “immigration-safe” pleas for non-citizens and seeking post-conviction relief for individuals facing deportation or removal.   

John graduated in the top five percent of his class at UCLA School of Law.  After law school, John was an Associate at Morrison & Foerster, LLP in San Francisco.  He was a law clerk for the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 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 a doctor charged with five felony counts of tax evasion and obstruction; John defeated the prosecution’s attempt to charge his client of obstruction based on an expansive and arbitrary interpretation of the law.  John and his team exposed serious prosecutorial misconduct which led to the removal and discipline of the entire prosecution team. 
  • Representing an international entrepreneur under indictment for racketeering and drug charges based on his development of an advanced encryption technology and telecommunications network that was used throughout Europe and Asia.
  • Representing an electrical engineer charged with economic espionage based on allegations that he conspired to export banned semiconductor technology to China.
  • Representing a medical device distributor in a federal investigation involving alleged violations of the Stark Laws, the Travel Act, and the Anti-Kickback Statute.
  • Representing an individual in an internal investigation under the Clean Water Act.
  • Litigating a novel constitutional challenge to the National Firearms Act; John challenged Congress’ power to regulate intrastate possession of unregistered machine guns because the law is premised on Congress’ power to tax, but generates no tax revenue.    
  • Representing a doctor accused in a 50-count indictment of over-prescribing opiates and other controlled substances; John’s client was facing a maximum sentence of more than 700 years, but John negotiated a plea to a single count and no jail time.  
  • Representing a young man accused of capital murder and attempted 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 international investigation on behalf of a Philippine national accused of smuggling firearms 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 attempt to seek review of the win in the United States Supreme Court.  
  • Representing an international businessman who was accused of offering illegal gratuities to government officials in the United States; seeking new trial following the Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2355 (2016).
  • Securing a hung jury and winning a motion for 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

Speaking Engagements

Advancing Justice:  The Legacy and Jurisprudence of the Honorable A. Wallace Tashima, January 25, 2019, UCLA School of Law