John W. Witt received his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Southern California. Between undergraduate studies and law school, he served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Resigning his regular commission to enter law school, Mr. Witt continued as a reserve officer, eventually retiring with the rank of Colonel. In 1961, he joined the San Diego City Attorney’s office, serving as a prosecutor, civil trial lawyer and public utility specialist.
Appointed City Attorney by the City Council in 1969, he was elected to the post six times by San Diego’s voters, retiring in December 1996. As San Diego City Attorney, Mr. Witt advised the Mayor, City Council and City Manager on all official legal matters and supervised a staff of more than 100 lawyers. In the 1970s, appointed by then-FCC Chair Dean Burch, he served on the Federal Communications Commission’s Select Committee on Federal-State/Local Regulation of Cable Television. He negotiated for the City the present San Diego Gas & Electric Co. franchises and the San Diego Padres lease of San Diego Stadium. Mr. Witt lectured on civil rights law for the Georgetown University Law Center for several years. He was co-author of Section 1983 Forms, a part of the Civil Rights Library, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.
Mr. Witt was a past president of the International Municipal Lawyers Association and the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities. He was a past chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of State & Local Government Law, a founding member of the ABA’s Government & Public Sector Lawyers Division and a past member of the ABA House of Delegates. In 1996, he received the ABA’s Clair Nelson Award for Outstanding Service by a Public Sector Lawyer. In 1975, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America named him a Distinguished Eagle Scout. Locally, he was a past president of the San Diego Lions Club and served on its Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees of the Lions Welfare Foundation. He was a past president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Diego. Mr. Witt was a member of the U. S. Supreme Court Bar, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of California and the San Diego County Bar Association.
After his retirement from public office in 1997, Mr. Witt joined Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak. For more than 20 years, he counseled the firm’s clients and his colleagues on land use, franchise and election matters including negotiating the terms of Proposition B – the pension reform measure passed by San Diego voters in 2012.
Mr. Witt passed away in 2018 leaving behind a legacy of public service and dedication to the law and to the City of San Diego.