Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Page 3


Ex-Public Defender Wilbur Littlefield—a ‘Square Shooter—Turns 90


Tonight, a small group of well-wishers will get together at a Los Angeles restaurant to celebrate former Los Angeles County Public Defender Wilbur “Bill” Littlefield’s upcoming 90th birthday (on April 6). These pre-birthday festivities have been taking place for several years, orchestrated by former Deputy Public Defender Kenneth Green, whose brief biography of Littlefield appears on this page.

Noteworthy is that participants include not only public and private criminal defense lawyers, but also prosecutors.

Among the birthday wishes below are those of retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eric Younger. He quotes his late father, Evelle Younger, while a Superior Court judge (he was later district attorney, then attorney general), as observing that Littlefield was “a square shooter.” That’s part of what has endeared Littlefield to persons throughout the legal profession.

He was a war hero, a top-notch trial lawyer, a superb administrator. Littlefield was with the Public Defender’s Office for 36 years, and headed it for 17 years, retiring in 1993.



Bill Littlefield—Congrats on the BIG 90! You have been a hero all your adult life—from your Alamo Scout days during World War II and throughout your distinguished career as a Deputy Public Defender and as Los Angeles County’s Public Defender. You are a great man!

Steve Cooley

Los Angeles County District Attorney

It has been written that those who came of age during the World War 11era are members of the greatest generation. Yet there are certain individuals of that generation whose gallantry distinguishes them from all the others. He was a leader of a small all volunteer force that was repeatedly inserted on enemy held islands to conduct very dangerous, but high value reconnaissance missions that provided important information used in the successful rescue of American POWS. He never lost a single man in combat. Within the past few years, he was introduced at Fort Bragg in North Carolina as a member of a precursor unit to the current special forces who gave him a very warm welcome.

In the postwar period, he supported his family working full time on the docks in the bay area. After seven years in private practice he enjoyed a highly successful career as a trial lawyer in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office before becoming the Public Defender.

Bill has not received the credit that is due him for being the staunch and determined leader he was, who operated as the fulcrum point allowing the Los Angeles Office to pivot, head in a new direction and ultimately become the progressive institution it is today. It should be noted that Bill is not only a modest man, but hastens to ensure that others get credit for their contributions.

Truly the office, the local criminal justice system and the world is a better place as a result of his efforts.

Michael Judge

Former Los Angeles County Public Defender

Wilbur Littlefield assumed the management role in the Public Defender’s office while I was DA. He was a quiet effective committed leader of that fine office—leading as much by example than by rhetoric. The office was much the better for him. I am proud to consider him a colleague.

John Van de Kamp

Former California attorney general

Wow—90! Something for us all to aspire to. I remember, when I was a new judge in the 1970s, my dad remarking on what a straight shooter and all-around good man Bill Littlefield was. (And, heck, he probably still is!) Bill Littlefield was a strong, ethical and steadying presence in an inherently difficult and unrewarding job, and I congratulate him on this big day.

Eric E. Younger

Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, Retired

Bill Littlefield is one of the most respected lawyers that ever walked into a courtroom in the County of Los Angeles. He was also just as respected by the bench and bar in his role as the Public Defender. He is not only a war hero but also a courtroom legend, a gentleman, a dog lover, and always carries a sense of humor that is revealed in the stories he enjoys telling about his exploits in the war and in the courtroom. I have very much enjoyed getting to know him better during his retirement years and wish him the happiest birthday of all for number 90. He is also one of the nicest people I have ever met.

Happy 90th Birthday, Bill.

Victor Persón

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court (Ret.)

Congratulations, Wilbur, on your 90th. It’s a significant milestone, and I look forward to your celebrating the next decennial. I admired your work as Public Defender of Los Angeles and, especially, serving with you for so many years on the CALJIC committee, where you made important contributions to correct statements of the law in the standard jury instructions. With every good wish,

Norman L. Epstein

Presiding Justice

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Div. Four

The year 1975, or was it 1976? The star player, Public Defender Wilbur Littlefield. The supporting players, City Attorney Burt Pines and Supervising Judge of the Los Angeles Traffic Court, yours truly, Arthur Gilbert.

The issue. Mandatory jail time for all DUI first offenders, no matter what the circumstances. Gilbert publicly speaks out against Pines’ imprudent idea. Gilbert argues that sentences should be based on the circumstances of the case, not a one-size-fits-all approach. The press, whose ranks no doubt include reporters who down a few after work, enthusiastically support Gilbert.

Littlefield, known for his commitment to justice, agrees with Gilbert. A great television debate is planned, only Gilbert, the impartial judge, consults the Canons of Ethics and concludes his objective judicial role might appear compromised should he participate in the debate.

Littlefield to the rescue. He appears in place of Gilbert in the debate moderated by Wayne Satz. With cool logic, and incisive reasoning, Littlefield wins the debate.

Wilbur, your clients, the disadvantaged and the poor, received the best representation possible. And that is because under your leadership, the Public Defender’s Office and its lawyers consistently reflected the profession at its best.

Pardon me for breaking with tradition, but I, along with so many others, thank you on your birthday for the gift you have given us, your enduring contribution to our community. And on this birthday and all other days, please accept the gift of appreciation for all that you have done during your distinguished career.

Arthur Gilbert

Presiding Justice

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Div. Six


We first met in the mid-60s, when I, as a deputy attorney general, filled in for the recused D.A.’s Office and prosecuted a murder case (People v. Oliver Williams). You were the public defender on the case. That case began a great friendship of nearly 50 years. Along with that friendship was born a great admiration for you as an outstanding attorney, as well as a genuinely fine person with a wonderful sense of humanity, in addition to having the best sense of humor.

Have a spectacular 90th birthday!

Your pal,

Jack Goertzen 

Retired Justice

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Div. Four

I am pleased to have this opportunity to wish Bill Littlefield hearty congratulations in attaining his 90th year. We go back to the 1960s when I was Supervising Judge of the L.A. Superior Court criminal departments. Over all these years, I have never heard a negative comment about Bill’s lengthy and most able administration of the largest Public Defender’s agency in the United States. He is, indeed, most admired and well-liked by all in the criminal justice system. I am privileged to have worked with him. Happy Birthday, Bill, and many more!

Richard Schauer

Retired Presiding Justice

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Div. Seven

Happy Birthday to Public Defender Wilbur Littlefield, Champion of the Constitution. He kept it safe all those years.

Isabel R. Cohen

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court (Ret.)


Happy Birthday! Thank you for serving as a mentor and role model to many Loyola Law alums at the Public Defender’s Office.

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When I think of Bill Littlefield, I imagine Clark Gable in one of his finest roles playing a brilliant criminal defense attorney. Too bad Clark isn’t around today because he could play you at 90.

Happy Birthday and best of health and happiness.

 Richard Hirsch

Criminal defense attorney

Wilbur was one of the most influential men in my life. He hired me as a Deputy Public Defender in 1969 and encouraged me to apply for the Bench after being in the office approximately 15 years. He set a high standard of what a true lawyer and gentleman should be, and inspired me to reach my goals. I am forever in his debt. Happy Birthday.

 Bernard Kamins

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court (Ret.)

Dear Wilbur,

I wish you the best as you celebrate your 90th Birthday. You have contributed so much to the lives of others. May you continue to smile and enjoy life in your senior years.

Happy Birthday!

Jackie Lacey

Chief Deputy

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

If you were to look up “Wilbur Littlefield” in the dictionary, this is just a partial definition of what you would find:

“A man of valor, distinction, courage, integrity, character.”

 Bill, on this most auspicious occasion of your 90th birthday I am so honored to call you my friend and to have this opportunity to tell you how very much I have admired and respected you over the last thirty plus years.  Throughout this time I have never met anyone who didn’t feel that you were one of the most outstanding men they had ever known. You truly are the epitome and essence of a class act—the “jewel in the crown”!

Happy birthday and much love.

 Lea Purwin D’Agostino

Deputy District Attorney (Ret.)

Happy memories from the “old” days (1966-1981), and still chugging like you.

Dennis A. Fischer

Appellate attorney

Here’s to your 90th, MISTER Public Defender. It must be the pipe. On to at least the next ten.

Kenneth Chotiner

Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court (Ret.)


Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company