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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 in high-stakes disputes.

A specialist in white collar defense and investigations, John has handled all types of fraud cases (including wire fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, mail fraud, health care fraud and securities fraud) as well as corruption and bribery, violations of international trade and export laws, anti-kickback statutes 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.

John has more than 18 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 prevailed at every level in the trial and appellate courts in California and elsewhere, including significant trial victories in both federal and state courts, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the California Courts of Appeal, and the United States Supreme Court. John has also had considerable success in getting wrongful convictions reversed based on prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel.  He has obtained reversals of two death sentences, multiple life sentences, and decades of prison terms for a variety of offenses.  Finally, 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.

On the civil side, John brings his considerable trial experience to bear when handling civil litigation and business disputes.  Having tried more than twenty cases to verdict, John prepares every case, big or small, as if it is going to trial.  This approach quickly exposes the pressure points that make either a favorable verdict or a favorable settlement possible.    

John graduated 7th in 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 and ultimately 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 the executive director of a network of alcohol and drug treatment centers in one of the nation’s first federal prosecutions alleging illegal patient-brokering and kickbacks under the 2018 Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act (“EKRA”).
  • Following a three-day jury trial, John and his team obtained a complete defense verdict for a professional athlete in a civil suit filed by a paparazzo alleging assault and battery.
  • Representing scientists and professors under investigation by federal authorities as part of the National Security Division’s China Initiative.  
  • Representing a physician under indictment for health care fraud, mail fraud, and violations of the AKS in connection with an alleged compound cream prescription mill.
  • Representing a parent charged in the District of Massachusetts with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and money laundering as part of the novel “Varsity Blues” case.
  • Representing celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti in connection with multiple fraud and tax evasion charges in the Central District of California.
  • Representing a doctor charged in the District of Alaska with five felony counts of tax evasion and obstruction; John and his team exposed serious prosecutorial misconduct which led to the removal and discipline of the entire prosecution team and IRS Investigators.  All five felonies were dismissed in exchange for a plea to a single misdemeanor and a fine of $25. 
  • Representing an electrical engineer charged with economic espionage based on allegations that he conspired to export advanced semiconductor technology to China; John negotiated the dismissal of all five felony counts in exchange for a plea to a single regulatory offense.  His client was sentenced to 18 months probation with no restitution.  
  • Representing a medical device distributor in a federal investigation involving alleged violations of the Stark Laws, the Travel Act, and the Anti-Kickback Statute.
  • Litigating a novel constitutional challenge to the National Firearms Act; John challenged Congress’ power to regulate intrastate possession of unregistered machine guns.  After a jury trial and nearly five years of post-trial litigation, the Supreme Court vacated the conviction.     
  • Representing a physician 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 for killing a TSA Officer at the Los Angeles International Airport; John persuaded the U.S. Department of Justice to abandon its effort to seek the death penalty in exchange to a plea to life without parole.  
  • 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 accused of offering illegal gratuities to government officials in the United States.

Professional Recognition

  • Selected to the Super Lawyers® list for 2021
  • Orange County White-Collar Lawyer of the Year, 2021 
  • Named Best Lawyers in America® 2018-2021
  • Lawyer Delegate to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, 2017-2021
  • Selected to the National Trial Lawyers TOP 100 list for 2021

Speaking Engagements

On the Record: Representing a Notorious Client in the Age of Social Media, April 13, 2021, Federal Bar Council American Inn of Court, New York

China, Economic Espionage, and National Security:  Government & Defense Perspectives, November 19, 2019, UC Irvine School of Law

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