“The Evolution of a Trial Lawyer”
Attorney John E. Sweeney was born into a legal environment. His father was a law student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. at the time of his birth in 1951.
After moving west with his family, Mr. Sweeney was educated in the public schools of Los Angeles, graduating from Susan Miller Dorsey High School in 1969.
Mr. Sweeney was taught at a young age the finer points of trial advocacy, tagging along to court with his father. At the age of fifteen, Mr. Sweeney read the bible of defense advocacy, The Essentials of Cross Examination. It was at that point, that Mr. Sweeney knew that he had found his life s work as a Trial Attorney.
After graduating from The University of Southern California in 1973, and California College of Law in 1979, Mr. Sweeney was hired at the Los Angeles County District Attorney s office by then Assistant District Attorney, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. There, Mr. Sweeney forged a friendship and close working relationship with Johnnie Cochran. When Mr. Cochran left the District Attorney’s Office to reestablish his private practice, Mr. Sweeney joined him where he sat at the feet of the master trial attorney and learned all he could.
While at the Cochran firm, he worked on some of the largest and highest profile civil rights cases in Los Angeles county history, including Settles v. City of Signal Hill and Avery v. City of Los Angeles. It was during this period of time, that Mr. Sweeney became adept at handling high profile cases and interacting with the news media.
In 1985, Mr. Sweeney left the Law Offices of Johnnie L. Cochran to establish his own firm in Beverly Hills, California. Since then, Mr. Sweeney has successfully handled some of the most complex tort, civil rights, and criminal cases in California and throughout the United States. Mr. Sweeney has won tens of millions of dollars in civil verdicts and settlements and scores of not guilty verdicts for clients who were falsely accused of crimes.
In 1986, Mr. Sweeney represented the family of Robert Gladden (Gladden v. Pepperdine University) in the tragic Baldwin Hills fire case, which involved the death of Gladden s mother. This was the largest litigation in Los Angeles County history with hundreds of parties involved.
In 1996, Mr. Sweeney won a $980,000.00 jury verdict on behalf of Ms. Meridon Estes (Estes v. Tustin Royale Retirement Home), at the time, the largest elder abuse verdict in Orange County, California history.
However, it was the period from 1997-2001 that Mr. Sweeney s finest work as a trial lawyer was realized. During that period, Mr. Sweeney won an amazing 23 straight jury trials, without a loss. Included in these wins was a victory in the case of People v. Lunsford Wesley. In that case, Mr. Sweeney received a very rare not guilty by reason of insanity verdict for his client. Additionally, Mr. Sweeney received a not guilty verdict in a death penalty case, People v. Ross Delano Temple, making him one of only a handful of lawyers in California state history who have received a not guilty verdict in a death penalty case.
Mr. Sweeney represented the plaintiff in the Beatty v. City of Los Angeles case. This case, involving the unlawful shooting of an elderly African American man by an officer of the Los Angeles Police Department, has received widespread acclaim as being the first case in which a Los Angeles Police Department officer has been prosecuted for shooting a citizen, since the Los Angeles County District Attorney s Officer Involved Shooting Roll Out Team was re-instituted. After a three-week jury trial, Mr. Beatty was awarded $2 million by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury.
Mr. Sweeney is believed to be the only lawyer in the history of California to have received a not guilty verdict in a death penalty trial and a verdict above $1 million in a civil case, making him one of the most versatile trial lawyers in history.
Mr. Sweeney rose to international fame representing Coby Chavis in the Inglewood Police Department s beating of Mr. Chavis and his son, Donovan Jackson. Mr. Sweeney filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for damages, entitled Donovan Jackson, et al. v. City of Inglewood. (The press conference was seen live throughout the world on CNN and MSNBC.) Mr. Sweeney has been interviewed by America s most famous journalists, including ABC s Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, Fox News Network Hannity & Combs, CNN s Connie Chung on the Connie Chung Show, BET s Ed Gordon on Bet Tonight, and has appeared on radio and television shows in England, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, and throughout the United States.
In 2004, the Sweeney Firm undertook one of the most challenging cases that it had ever undertaken. The firm represented plaintiff Frank Davis in a racial discrimination case which made history (Davis V. Universal Pictures). It was the first racial discrimination case brought against Universal Pictures. After a four year legal battle royale, which took the firm across the United States and into Canada several times for depositions, the case, in 2007 went to trial in the United States District Court in Los Angeles. After three days of trial, Universal Films settled the case with Mr. Davis for a confidential sum. Mr. Sweeney was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as being very satisfied with the amount of the settlement.
In 2008, Mr. Sweeney represented the family of a postal worker who was slain in his own home by a police officer in Wicks V. City of Inglewood. The case received international notariety and the Wicks family received a seven figure award.
In 2009, an African American U.S. Customs Agent, Mylus Mondy, was murdered at a Bank of America ATM in the affluent African American neighborhood of Ladera Heights. Mr. Sweeney proved during litigation that several prior robberies had occurred at this location and that Bank of America had not warned the public of the danger (Mondy v. Bank of America). Mr. Sweeney was quoted as saying I wonder if the security would have been as lacking if this were an affluent white neighborhood. Mr. Sweeney won an award of over one million dollars for the family of Mr. Mondy and more importantly Bank of America instituted changes in security at that location.
In a racially charged Los Angeles County Sheriff s Department shooting of Compton area teen Avery Cody, Mr. Sweeney won a high six figure award for young Avery s parents in 2011 (Cody v. County of Los Angeles).
Mr. Sweeney has received numerous civic honors, and was honored with a proclamation by the Los Angeles City Council after he organized a pro bono legal clinic for those affected by the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
In 2012, Mr. Sweeney received Rainbow/PUSH’s Drum Major for Justice Award. This prestigious award was for Mr. Sweeney’s body of work as a trial lawyer and social engineer and was presented by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Mr. Sweeney was inducted in the Inaugural Hall of Fame class at Dorsey High School. Mr. Sweeney has been honored by the California State Senate for his sponsorship of the Dorsey Academic Decathlon team, and was involved with the establishment of the Teen Court Program at Dorsey High School.
Mr. Sweeney is life long member of one of the largest and most prestigious African American churches in the country, Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, serving in many leadership positions. He has also previously served as President of the Board of Trustees of the State of California African American Museum.
Mr. Sweeney was inducted into the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). Induction into this highly selective organization is based on merit, experience, and overall trial expertise. Also, the litigation section of the State Bar of California has recently nominated Mr. Sweeney for its prestigious Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame Award.
Mr. Sweeney is active in many other legal organizations including the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Beverly Hills Bar Association, John M. Langston Bar Association, the Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles and many more.
Mr. Sweeney is also an avid outdoorsman, having scaled 19,000 foot Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, and is also a collector of African American Art. Mr. Sweeney divides his time between residences in Los Angeles and La Quinta, California where he resides with his wife Cheryl and their daughter Zaynah.