An award-winning trial lawyer specializing in criminal defense and civil rights, Mr. Sterling has dedicated his career to representing the accused as well as those who have been mistreated by law enforcement.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mr. Sterling has dedicated himself to trial defense work since the inception of his legal career. His commitment to social justice is highlighted by his years of committed service as a trial lawyer for the underdog.
As a former trial attorney for the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, Justin Sterling has defended some of the most challenging and complex criminal cases. Mr. Sterling established a reputation within the Los Angeles legal community as being a talented trial lawyer. During these years in the trenches, criminal defense attorney Justin Sterling represented clients charged with murder, robbery, rape, major-narco, child molestation, sex offenses, residential and commercial burglary, cyber-crimes, and major fraud. He has defended clients prosecuted by virtually every specialized unit in the County, be it Hardcore, Major Crimes, Family Violence, or the High-Tech Crimes Unit. By obtaining acquittals in the big cases, criminal defense attorney Justin Sterling received extensive peer recognition and honors for his dedication to his clients.
After years of trial work within the public sector, Mr. Sterling founded the Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling. Taking advantage of his diverse network of contacts within Los Angeles and Southern California, Mr. Sterling is uniquely connected to the pulse of the local legal community. Mr. Sterling’s clients have access to the best investigators, experts, and legal professionals, who together, provide the client with unmatched representation. With almost two decades of experience within the criminal defense arena, Mr. Sterling has developed a variety of specializations, including white-collar crime, gang cases, sex crimes, alternative sentencing, pre-file/pre-indictment representation.
The framework for Mr. Sterling’s success is that he is a trial lawyer not a businessman. Mr. Sterling’s trial statistics attest to his skill in jury selection, cross-examination, and summation. He has tried over 70 jury trials to verdict in courts throughout California. In 2016, Mr. Sterling obtained an acquittal for his client charged with numerous counts of first-degree premeditated attempted murder. His client was facing a life sentence if convicted. Between 2017-2019, Mr. Sterling obtained four separate dismissals for clients facing life sentences and settled over a dozen cases for either diversion, reduced charges, or probation, in cases where his clients were originally facing lengthy prison sentences. In 2021, Mr. Sterling secured over ten case rejections for clients facing potential felony charges. In 2022, Mr. Sterling secured a 3-year plea deal for his client charged with first-degree murder. His client was facing a life sentence if convicted.
Oftentimes, an attorney’s most powerful tool is their reputation. A Criminal defense lawyer that is afraid to fight is never effective. However, an attorney that fights everything and everyone can be just as bad. Drawing upon his relationships with filing prosecutors, his extensive experience working up a case, and his trial record, Mr. Sterling routinely intervenes early on for his clients in an effort to prevent a criminal filing. Mr. Sterling understands which situations require aggressive tactics and which are best approached with diplomacy and finesse. Whether it’s arguing a case to a jury or resolving a client’s case quickly and discreetly, Mr. Sterling’s approach to the practice of law is defined by his unwavering commitment to his clients.
Oftentimes, those charged with a criminal offense can also be mistreated by the police. Accordingly, Mr. Sterling has also honed a niche within the civil arena taking on selected civil rights cases where his clients have been targeted and subjected to misconduct by law enforcement. Mr. Sterling courageously represents citizens who have been physically injured, sexually abused under color of authority, racially profiled, or harmed by police corruption. He zealously pursues justice for his clients not only through money damages but also by holding police officers, police departments, and governmental entities publicly accountable for civil rights violations.
In 2017, attorney Justin Sterling obtained three seven-figure settlement awards stemming from litigation against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Probation Department. These federal civil rights lawsuits triggered widespread reform throughout the County Departments. In 2018, Mr. Sterling obtained two seven-figure awards and numerous six-figure settlement awards against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Probation Department, and the Los Angeles Police Department. In 2019, criminal defense lawyer Justin Sterling and his team won a six-figure verdict against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in an excessive force trial where the jury awarded punitive damages against Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies. In 2021, Mr. Sterling obtained a seven-figure result against the Department of Child and Family Services. In 2022, Mr. Sterling successfully prevailed against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in a federal wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the tragic death of a young man who was detained at Men’s Central Jail.
To date, Mr. Sterling’s pending litigation against California’s prison system, the LAPD, Sheriff’s Department, as well as other municipalities, seeks to hold bad actors accountable for civil rights violations. It’s not enough to secure just compensation for his clients, as much of the work is impact litigation. Impact litigation seeks to bring about institutional reform and policy change, while addressing the structural inequalities that often lead to government misconduct.
Mr. Sterling is routinely featured in both print and digital media as an expert in criminal defense and civil rights cases. Mr. Sterling has lectured and trained other attorneys in the area of police misconduct litigation, most recently at the American Bar Association’s 2021 Spring Conference, entitled “Resolving Civil Rights Disputes in the Age of Disruption.” Mr. Sterling’s cases have been covered by local and national news outlets such as ABC, Fox News, CNN, LA Times, Newsweek, and the Associated Press. By combining in-depth criminal and civil trial experience with local expertise, Mr. Sterling continues to be one of the most sought-after criminal defense and civil rights attorneys in the Los Angeles area.