John C. Lemon

Since graduating from law school in 1994, Mr. Lemon has dedicated his practice of law to the representation of the accused. First working exclusively for indigent defendants as a Deputy Public Defender in San Diego County, then as a trial attorney at Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., he now maintains his criminal-defense practice through The Law Offices of John C. LemonAPC.

Mr. Lemon’s practice is oriented toward complex felony cases, with an emphasis on large, multidefendant, conspiracy indictments alleging white-collar and drug-trafficking offenses. He has won acquittals and hung juries in many serious cases, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, and murder. For example, in 2008, he tried a complex federal murder case involving an alleged prison gang. His client, who was facing a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole, was acquitted of all six felony counts – including first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and assault with intent to commit murder – and immediately released from federal prison.

Mr. Lemon also maintains an aggressive appellate and motions practice. He has successfully argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on several occasions, including a 2013 argument before the en banc court where he won a nearly-unanimous reversal on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct. United States v. Maloney, 755 F.3d 1044 (9th Cir. 2014). And he has won numerous motions to suppress in both the federal district courts and California trial courts.

Of course, not every client is best served by a jury trial. Accordingly, Mr. Lemon maintains a cogent and professional negotiating style to the benefit of all his clients, many of whom receive favorable dispositions and even dismissals.

“John C. Lemon is a man with passion for his work and his clients. This man did the impossible and made me free. Thank you, John.”

Mr. Lemon holds a B.A. in Letters with Distinction from the University of Oklahoma and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. He is certified as a Specialist in Criminal Trial Advocacy by the State Bar of California and the National Board of Trial Advocacy. And he has been Peer Review Rated “AV” (the highest rating for legal ability) by Martindale-Hubbell, was awarded the “Super Lawyers” designation by Law & Politics in the 2008 – 2017 editions of its Super Lawyers publication, and has been recognized in the 2014 – 2017 editions of The Best Lawyers in America.

He is licensed to practice in the State of California, the Southern District of California, the Central District of California, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.


Juris Doctorate

Stanford Law School – ‘94

B.A. in Letters with Distinction

University of Oklahoma
Phi Beta Kappa – ‘90


State Bar of California

Central District of California

Southern District of California

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

United States Supreme Court


Law Offices of John C. Lemon, APC (2006–pres.)

Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc. (2001–2006)

San Diego County Office of the Public Defender (1994–1996)

Certification & Recognition

  • Certified Specialist in Criminal Trial Advocacy (State Bar of California  Board of Legal Specialization, National Board of Trial Advocacy)
  • “AV” Peer Review Rated (Martindale-Hubbell)
  • Recognized in 2008 – 2017 editions of San Diego Super Lawyers (Law & Politics)
  • Recognized in the 2014 – 2017 editions of The Best Lawyers in America.
  • Recognized in the San Diego Daily Transcript’s “Top Attorneys of 2009”

Michael C. Harkness

Special Counsel

After receiving the Best Advocate Award at the nation’s most prestigious law school mock-trial competition in 1994, Mike Harkness knew that he wanted to spend his career advocating for his clients in the courtroom. To that end, he committed the first two years of his practice to representing indigent defendants at the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office, where he was lead counsel in several dozen jury trials – winning many of them. He established his own criminal-defense practice in 1997 and has been a fixture in the San Diego courts ever since.

Mr. Harkness has represented individuals charged with virtually every type of crime in the California Penal Code, from DUI to murder. In 1999 – just four years out of law school – he won a stunning acquittal for a client charged with double murder and kidnapping. This victory cemented his reputation as a formidable advocate, capable of trying the most serious felony cases. But he has also earned the respect of judges and prosecutors, which is essential to negotiating favorable plea bargains for clients who are not best served by a trial.

For many years, one of the hallmarks of Mr. Harkness’s practice has been his ability to manage the unique challenges presented by defendants who – through whatever turn of bad luck – find themselves in the crosshairs of the state or federal government for the first time.

Through his empathy for these clients – most of whom have significant anxiety about not only the prospect of jail time, but the collateral consequences of a felony conviction – Mr. Harkness is able to humanize them to prosecutors, judges, and juries. This regularly leads to outstanding results.

Mr. Harkness received his B.A. from Miami University (Ohio) and his law degree from California Western School of Law. He was recognized as one of “San Diego County’s Top Attorneys” in 2010 and 2011 by the San Diego Daily Transcript.


Juris Doctorate

California Western School of Law – ‘95


Miami University (Ohio) – ‘91


State Bar of California

United States District Court, Southern District of California


Law Offices of Michael C. Harkness, APC (1997–Present)

San Diego County Office of the Public Defender (1995–1997)

Certification & Recognition

Recognized by the San Diego Daily Transcript as a Top Attorney in 2010, 2011 and 2013.