Judge John A. Houston
“I am grateful for the opportunities afforded me by the CLEO Program. Having spoken to countless first year students and having lectured at various law schools since the 1970 CLEO program, I have no doubt the preparation required by the professors and the program was of great assistance toward my successful first year of law school and all past and current endeavors. I am forever indebted to the program, and I’m proud to be a CLEO Fellow/Alum.”
In October 2003, the United States Senate confirmed the nomination of the Honorable John A. Houston to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, San Diego, California. He has been appointed to sit by designation in the District of Guam and the District of the Northern Mariana Islands; and on the United States (U.S.) Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. As an Article III judge with life-time tenure, he has the significant responsibility of exercising jurisdiction over federal criminal and civil matters. The civil matters include the interpretation and/or application of federal statutory and constitutional law.
From April 1998 until his Senate confirmation, Judge Houston served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in San Diego, California. In this capacity, he had jurisdiction in civil cases to hear and decide pretrial motions, preside over settlement conferences, conduct status and pretrial conferences and jury and non-jury trials with the consent of the parties. Jurisdiction in criminal cases included jurisdiction to conduct extraditions, arraignments, bail hearings, detention hearings and handle other pretrial matters, such as issuing arrest and search warrants and property seizure warrants, presiding over felony pleas, and conducting all proceedings in criminal misdemeanor cases, including trial and sentencing.
While serving as a magistrate judge, Judge Houston was called upon to provide training on money laundering, asset forfeiture and other criminal law topics to judicial officers in other countries. He conducted two training conferences in the Republic of South Africa. The attendees and co-panelists at one of these conferences were judges of the Supreme Court of South Africa and the Constitutional Law Court of South Africa. He was also called upon to conduct similar judicial seminars for judges from Bogota, Columbia and for judges in Bangkok, Thailand.
As a district judge, he has participated in other international training programs and judicial comparative law programs in Peru, Argentina, Mexico and the Kingdom of Morocco. He also participates in numerous legal education programs relating to trial techniques, civil discovery and civil law motions practice, criminal law practice and civility with local bar associations and area law schools.
Between 1981 and April 1998, Houston was an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) in San Diego. In 1986, he was appointed Chief of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and later Senior Litigation Counsel to the United States Attorney. He also served as a legal instructor for the U.S. Department of Justice. In this capacity, he trained hundreds of AUSAs and special agents of the DEA, FBI and IRS in the areas of financial investigations and money laundering.
In 1978, Judge Houston reported for active duty to the Judge Advocate Generals Corps, U.S. Army. In 2004, he retired from the U.S. Army Reserves with his last assignment being the Deputy Commander of a legal support organization.
His involvement in community affairs has centered primarily around programs that enhance the abilities of children to prepare themselves to meet the challenges and demands associated with personal development and economic achievement.
A native of Greensboro, NC, Judge Houston attended Lincoln Junior High School and Ben. L. Smith High School. Thereafter he graduated, cum laude, from North Carolina A & T State University in 1974 with a degree in Political Science. He was also commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, through A & T’s ROTC program, receiving recognition as a Distinguished Military Student and the Distinguished Military Graduate. He is a proud graduate of the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) program held in the summer of 1974 at the University of Florida School of Law in Jacksonville, FL. In 1977, he graduated from the University of Miami School of Law, Coral Gables, Florida.
He is admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit, the Florida Bar, the State Bar of California and various military courts.