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Whitney Z. Bernstein


Whitney is an experienced criminal defense attorney who brings her competence, compassion, and tenacity to every case and client. 


Whitney Z. Bernstein is an aggressive litigator and accomplished criminal defense attorney with a track record for achieving success for her clients when the odds are against them. She has spent her career successfully defending felony and misdemeanor criminal offenses, leading companies in internal investigations to prevent litigation, and representing companies and individuals in contract and business tort claims and employment litigation. Whitney is a credible, tireless, and respected advocate who has tried numerous felony and misdemeanor federal and state jury trials. 

In addition to Whitney’s considerable courtroom and trial experience, she has drafted and argued countless suppression and discovery violation motions, negotiated favorable dispositions for her clients, and obtained numerous dismissals of charges. Whitney takes a very hands-on approach by involving herself in all aspects of case management, investigation, discovery, depositions, interviews, negotiations, and trial preparation. She also has successfully argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding interpretation and application of federal immigration laws.

Whitney’s outstanding results and reputation earned her recognition by Best Lawyers as 2023 “Lawyer of the Year” for Criminal Defense: General Practice in Orange County.  She has been recognized by Best Lawyers for her work in White Collar Criminal Defense for 2021 and 2022. Super Lawyers® has recognized Whitney as a “Rising Star” every year from 2020 to 2023, a distinction bestowed on no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in any state.  The National Trial Lawyers also named Whitney as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Defense Trial Lawyers in 2021 and 2022 for her demonstrated superior qualifications, leadership skills, and trial results. 

Outside of the courtroom, Whitney is very involved in her community. She trains federal criminal defense practitioners at the local and national level and proudly serves as a Lawyer Representative for the Southern District of California, as a member of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association, and previously, on the inaugural Advisory Board to the San Diego County Probation Department Chief. As of October 2022, Whitney will be announced as the co-chair of the Cornell Alumni Admission Ambassador Network.

Prior to joining Bienert Katzman Littrell Williams LLP, Whitney was a trial lawyer for the Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. Before that, she was a trial lawyer for Brooklyn Defender Services in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School earning her Juris Doctor and simultaneously earning her Master of Science in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania Department of Criminology. As an undergraduate at Cornell University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Government and Sociology with a concentration in Law and Society, she graduated with Distinction in All Subjects, Dean’s List, and was an active volunteer in the local community as a firefighter and teacher.


Best Lawyers Award Badge             Whitney Z. Bernstein Criminal Defense Lawyer

Whitney Z. Bernstein Criminal Defense Lawyer and Rising Star

Super Lawyers Rising Star”

Named to Southern California Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” (no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in any state have this distinction)

Whitney Bernstein Top 40 Under 40 National Trial Lawyers       Whitney Z. Bernstein Criminal Defense Lawyer Received Lawyers of Distinction 2019


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Representative Matters

  • Obtained reversal of client’s conviction from Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the Circuit recognized the theory that an unlawful removal of a legal permanent resident in absentia infected his subsequent removal from the United States and could not serve as the basis for future criminal prosecutions.
  • Achieved jury acquittal for client facing ten-year mandatory minimum prison sentence accused of importing methamphetamine.
  • Obtained dismissals of all charges for multiple clients charged with federal drug offenses after litigating discovery, constitutional, and suppression issues.
  • Litigated discovery, constitutional, and suppression issues in a bulk cash smuggling case and obtained favorable resolution whereby client avoided incarceration.
  • Obtained dismissal of federal charges and sealing of arrest record for clients accused of importing narcotics and transporting undocumented persons.
  • Won suppression of statements and dismissal of federal drug importation charges for a client arrested at the Port of Entry in a car full of narcotics.
  • Secured pre-trial dismissal of all charges for client accused of assaulting a federal officer.
  • Secured jury acquittal for client charged with driving under the influence.
  • Secured jury acquittal for client accused of assault.
  • Litigated motions to dismiss alleging a due process violation of an administrative misapplication of criminal law and thereby negotiated favorable dispositions for clients.
  • Argued due process violations in prior proceedings for a severely mentally ill client facing federal felony charges and obtained a misdemeanor resolution.
  • Obtained probationary sentences, thereby avoiding lengthy prison terms, for multiple clients convicted of importing narcotics and violating other federal laws.
  • Identified and secured citizenship for client facing deportation.