John Karas attended and graduated Law School in 1984. He attended California Western School of Law (a fully accredited law school in California unlike most in California) and passed the California Bar exam on his first try (lowest bar passage rate that year in history) unlike most attorneys who had to take the bar exam more than once (even many who were on “Law Review” in the top 10% of Mr. Karas’ graduating class and the so-called “elite” scholars of the law).

Mr. Karas had the distinction of being selected to be on Cal Western’s Trial Advocacy team that competed with all of the other law schools throughout California.  He also had the 2nd highest grade in Remedies (toughest class in law school by far).

Mr. Karas accomplished both of the above despite working 2 part-time jobs (one starting at 4:00 a.m while the other ran from 4:30 to as late as 9:00 p.m.) to support himself while going to law school full-time.

During law school, Mr. Karas served internships at Defenders’, Inc, Federal Defenders’, Inc. and the San Diego County District Attorney’s office.  

During those internships, Mr. Karas was the only permitted to prepare motions, oppositions to motions, handled sentencing in both state and federal court and took a case to trial (won) under the “supervision” of a Public Defender who did nothing working up the case and wasn’t present at the trial.

Mr. Karas also had the privilege of working with lawyers such as Eugene Iredale (one of the top lawyers in the entire country) and Judy Clarke (who represented the Boston Marathon bomber) while at Federal Defender’s Inc.  


As a criminal defense attorney, The Law Office of John Karas has both experience and a proven track record of success as well as in Appellate work (both Appeals and Writs) and directly responsible for changes made in the law in both, Riverside and Orange Counties.

  • Mr. Karas was hired by Mike Pancer (one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Southern California who specialized in major Drug trafficking cases) as a law clerk while awaiting his bar exam results.
  • Soon afterward, Mr.Karas began working to help defend Roger Hedgecock (then Mayor of San Diego) who was charged with perjury for allegedly failing to disclose financial contributions on campaign finance disclosure statements required by the FPPC.  Fresh out of law school, Mr. Karas was tasked with the responsibility to conduct legal research and assist in the preparation of several pre-trial motions.  
  • One of the motions John prepared (but was not filed for political strategy reasons because Mayor Hedgecok was in the midst of a hotly contested election) was based on an Appellate Court case called People vs. French (decided in 1934). The Court in French ruled that an omission of information did not mean that the tax filer committed perjury and was legally insufficient to support a perjury charge.  The significance of the French case was the San Diego DA’s case could have been dismissed (meaning case over) if the motion had been filed.
  • The pre-trial motions which were filed were all denied by the trial court judge was not unexpected since most Trial Judges are former DA’s/prosecutors go along with whatever the DA/Federal prosecutor wants to give the “People” their day in court.
  • After the trial court rulings, Mr. Karas assisted Mr. Pancer in the preparation of a Writ Petition seeking review by the 4th District Court of Appeals (Division 1) in San Diego. The fact that the 4th DCA even accepted the Writ Petition was a victory for the Hedgecock defense team as 95% of Writ Petitions were then and still are now summarily rejected.
  • More importantly, one of the Justices at the 4th DCA requested briefs from both sides regarding, whether the perjury charges against Mayor Hedgecock could even be maintained based on the People v. French case that Mr. Karas “pounded the table” to have filed, which was unprecedented.
  • Unfortunately, the 4th DCA denied the Writ Petition due to an inadequate showing of “irreparable harm” because Mr. Hedgecock was still re-elected Mayor.  At trial (in which Mr. Karas played an important part) the jury came back with a “hung verdict”. Mayor Hedgecock was later re-tried on the same charges but lost despite hiring one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the entire country (Oscar Goldman who later became Mayor of Las Vegas).
  • During the Hedgecock trial, another aspect of the Hedgecock case revolved around Mr. Karas’ handling of the representation of a former secretary of J. David Dominelli.  After Domenelli’s “Ponzi scheme” (swindled investors in San Diego and throughout California out of over 80 million dollars) began falling apart, he fled the country to evade prosecution. The U.S. Attorney General’s Office learned that Dominelli’s personal secretary was living in the UK (Great Britain) and extradited her to the U.S. to question her about her role in the Ponzi scheme
  • Mr. Pancer realized that the interview by the U.S. Attorney’s Office could have a major impact on the defense of Mayor Hedgecock so he “lawyered up” the secretary by offering to represent her free of charge. However, since he was in trial on the Hedgecock case on a daily basis he couldn’t be in two places at once. Rather than ask one of several criminal defense attorney’s he knew in town to defend the secretary, he sent Mr. Karas recognizing that John possessed special talent and already exhibited a tough, no-nonsense attitude even though Mr. Karas had been licensed by the California State Bar at that point for only 3 weeks.
  • The senior most Deputy U.S. Attorney General handling the criminal investigation of Dominelli was present along with the # 2 man in the U.S. Attorney General’s Office for the Southern District of California both came to personally conduct the interview of the former secretary.  Mr. Karas objected to questioning that had anything to do with Mayor Hedecock and also at times instructed the secretary not to answer certain questions based on her 5th Amendment Right not to Incriminate herself.
  • Both of the U.S. Attorneys (who were twice as old and far more experienced than Mr. Karas) threatened to file Federal Obstruction of Justice charges against him but Mr. Karas stood his ground, the interview was completed despite further objections/instructions not to answer certain questions and the secretary was allowed to leave the country without any charges filed against her as a “co-conspirator” .
  • While employed by a Public Defender’s Office, John was the only one who filed motions (1538.5 Motion to Suppress Evidence among type of pre-trial motions) and took 7-8 cases to trial (over a 6 month period of time) while the rest of the deputy PD’s collectively (8-10 others) took a grand total of 1 case to trial in 12 months.
  • Mr. Karas filed a Writ on behalf of a gentleman who came to the Public Defender’s Office asking for help even though he had not been represented by the PD’s Office and already pled “straight up” to a Commissioner who gave him 90 days sentences on the 4 criminal cases.  He had been to the PD’s Office on multiple prior occasions but no one “stepped up” until Mr. Karas took on the case “pro bono”. At that time, jail time imposed on more than 1 cases typically ran concurrently (meaning serving jail time on 1 case counted toward the other sentences), not back to back (meaning 360 days total) like the Commissioner imposed. The Writ Mr. Karas prepared was granted resulting in the client ended up having to serve only 45 days actual jail time total.  
  • Mr. Karas also represented a 17 year old minor charged with assault and battery on her mother’s “significant other” (lesbian lover) in Juvenile Court. Both the mother and “significant lover” were gay as was the head of the Public Defender Juvenile Court Division. Despite the PD office pressuring the client into pleading guilty. Mr. Karas put a stop to that and successfully persuaded the DA to dismiss the charges.


Mr. Karas is licensed to practice law in all courts in California and U.S. Federal District Court. The significance is that unlike most attorneys who are not admitted to practice in Federal Court is that Civil Rights/Police Brutality cases are much easier to prove in Federal Court and damages awarded to a successful claimant (you) are much higher.


Unlike 99% of all attorneys in California who have never handled an Appeal in their entire career, Mr. Karas has not only handled Appeals and Writ Petitions but actually won a high percentage (not many who specialize in Appellate work can say that).  

About John Karas - Criminal Appeals


There are dozens of other “war stories” that could be shared but hope you get the point.  

Unlike other attorney websites/ads, which makes them sound tough and aggressive, they really aren’t and most don’t really care about your case. Mr. Karas is genuinely aggressive (charming when needed too in front of a jury), smart and resourceful in exploiting weaknesses in the the other side’s case, does not back down from anyone and will go the “extra mile” to get all his clients the best possible results.  


Now the question is: WHO do you want to represent you when you’re facing serious charges and your freedom is at stake?  A “negotiator” who will twist your arm to accept the DA’s offer or a low-ball offer from an insurance company in a civil case or a highly skilled Trial Attorney who twists the the other side’s arm to get what he wants for his client?

The choice is yours.  Choose wisely.


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