Following his graduation from Loyola Law School in 1979, John became a prosecutor for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. As a city attorney, John conducted over 100 jury trials, including many for driving under the influence and petty theft – charges which most often arise in private criminal defense. He was appointed director of the Career Criminal Unit, and later worked in the Housing Enforcement Section which prosecuted slumlords’ who rented-out apartments with multiple violations issued by the Health Department, Fire Department and the Department of Building and Safety.
In this capacity he obtained the largest civil judgment ever recorded against a slumlord by the City. John was appointed Special Prosecutor to the Los Angeles County District Attorney, in its Organized Crime and Anti-Terrorist Unit, and served in this position for seven years. While there, he conducted the trial of fifteen members of the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and other domestic terrorist groups on charges ranging from criminal conspiracy, illegal weapons possession, the setting of illegal fires, and unlawful assembly. He obtained convictions in this nationally broadcast trial (Court TV), and is very proud to have set a legal precedent which helped end overt Klan recruitment activity, by establishing for the first time in American judicial history that the Ku Klux Klan ceremonial cross ‘lighting’ ceremony (or cross burning as it’s more commonly called) is not protected by the First Amendment. The convictions withstood all appellate challenges, confirming his contention that the rights of neighborhood residents to be free from fear superseded the Klan’s right to openly inflame the cross.
John began his private civil practice in 1985, primarily representing victims of traffic accidents and other bodily injury claims. As either a prosecuting attorney or as a civil attorney in private practice, he has conducted approximately 150 jury trials in civil matters ranging from motor-vehicle collisions, medical malpractice, products liability, and business related disputes, and in criminal matters ranging from petty theft, drunk driving, drug possession and first degree murder. All the while, he has worked closely with the finest doctors and healthcare facilities in the greater Los Angeles area to ensure his clients receive the best medical attention and care during the resolution of their claim.
John W. Phillips is the author of Sign of the Cross: The Prosecutor’s True Story of a Landmark Trial Against the Klan, published by Westminster John Knox Press. It remains available for purchase through bookstores and online services.