John receiving Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Sacramento County Bar in the presence of his daughter, Rebel, and son, Rob.
"When David takes on Goliath," began one media account, "he usually calls attorney John M. Poswall." The Sacramento Bee featured him under the heading: "Taking on the Giants." The Sacramento News and Review simply listed him under "Super Lawyers." In the legal profession, he consistently appears in the national publication "Best Lawyers in America."
His causes have not always been popular. In his first year of practice, he sued his alma mater, Sacramento State College, and made headlines with the first court order in the nation requiring a state college to officially recognize a gay student group. In 1995, he appeared on ABC's 20/20 defending the academic freedom of a lesbian professor at the same college to deliver a graphic lecture on female masturbation. In between, he sued the black college president for gender discrimination in promotion.
During the Vietnam War he defended conscientious objectors and drew the ire of the Wall Street Journal which editorialized against his successful federal suit to release a West Point graduate from his military obligation because of his conscientious objection to the war.
Nor has he limited his legal strategies to the courtroom. Inside and outside of the courtroom, on television and in the media, he orchestrated the first referendum in the country to close a nuclear power plant. In litigation with an HMO, he took to the radio and put an "All Points Bulletin" out for the CEO of the health organization that was denying treatment to women with breast cancer.
After a successful jury verdict of $2.3 million for his client, he "seized" a Montgomery Wards store and went on television in front of the store urging the public to come down and shop since the money would go to pay off the former Ward employee's judgment.
Poswall has successfully sued some of the biggest companies in America and obtained multimillion dollar jury awards. This includes the free speech "SLAPP-back" case of Leonardini v. Shell Oil Co., which went all the way to the United States Supreme Court with Shell ultimately paying $7.5 million in general and punitive damages. The issues in the case were featured on 60 Minutes and his success in this and other cases was featured in Ralph Nader's book No Contest: Corporate Lawyers in the Perversion of Justice in America.
In and out of the courtroom, Poswall has been recognized by his peers. His has been selected to the prestigious American Board of Trial Advocates and to the exclusive American College of Trial Lawyers. In 1995, he was named "Sacramento County Bar Humanitarian of the Year" for his work with battered women and, in 2001, "Lawyer of the Year" by the Doctor/Lawyer organization of Sacramento.
John as he actually appeared in 1969
Poswall has written and spoken extensively on the law. For two years he had his own talk radio show, on 650 KSTE, Sacramento, entitled "Poswall on the Law." His speeches have included titles ranging from "Good vs. Evil: Practicing Civil Law in the Public Interest and Making a Pretty Good Living" to "Would You Want Your Daughter to Be an Attorney?" and "The History of Marriage and the Role of Women." His article "Fighting For My Life in the Medical System," published in the Sacramento Bee, chronicled his fight with leukemia and has been used to motivate others facing cancer. He also taught "Law and Mental Health" at the community college level and lectured university doctors on "Traumatically Induced Pre-Frontal Lobe Injury" and the ABA on "Autologous Bone Marrow Breast Cancer Litigation."
John as he remembers law school
Poswall was born in Southampton, England in 1943. He immigrated to the United States at age 10 with his English mother and East Indian father. In 1966, he graduated with honors from Sacramento State College (now CSUS) as the Outstanding Graduate, Outstanding Student in Government, and Student Body President.
In 1969, Poswall graduated with honors from Boalt Hall Law School. He was an assistant editor of the California Law Review and, upon graduation, named to the national honorary society Order of the Coif. At Boalt, he published on topics including the First Amendment.
Poswall is married to food writer and consultant Peg Tomlinson-Poswall. He has two children, Robert (38) and Rebel (36) and she has one, Lisa (35). They have two grandchildren. John and Peg live outside Sacramento, on 50 acres in the foothills. He is the Senior Partner of Poswall, White & Cutler, a civil litigation law firm in Sacramento, California.