Biographical Sketch of Clyde DeWitt
Clyde DeWitt is a Los Angeles and Las Vegas attorney who is well known for his adult entertainment practice. He is a nationally prominent lawyer, author and lecturer.
Born in 1948 in Racine, Wisconsin, he spent most of his youth in the Chicago area. As a result, he remains an insufferable Cubs fan.
Clyde is a graduate of the University of Houston, Bates College of Law where he was a member of the Board of Editors of The Houston Law Review, and was elected to the Order of The Barons for academic achievement. He also holds a Masters Degree from the University of Houston's College of Business Administration, as well as an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. He is an alumnus of Phi Delta Phi and Beta Alpha Psi.
After graduation from law school and admission to the bar in 1973, he served as an Assistant District Attorney in Houston (Harris County), Texas for over seven years. During his career as an Assistant DA, he served in the Consumer Fraud Division, Trial Division and Appellate Division. He was an active member of the Texas District and County Attorneys' Association, lecturing throughout the state to various groups of attorneys, as well as the Houston Police Academy and the Harris County Sheriff's Academy.
The most celebrated case of his career as prosecutor is the State of Texas v. Ronald Clark O'Bryan. O'Bryan was convicted of killing one of his own children and attempting to kill two others by lacing their trick-or-treat candy with cyanide. Mr. DeWitt represented the State of Texas as lead counsel through O'Bryan's unsuccessful appeals to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. This was a particularly challenging, case being amongst the first handful of death penalty appeals after the re-enactment of the death penalty in the wake of the uncertainty of Furman v. Georgia. Following briefing and his oral argument (which is said to have brought tears to the eyes of some courtroom monitors), O'Bryan's appeal was rejected by Texas' highest court and later by the United States Supreme Court. O'Bryan was executed in 1983. This case was particularly precedent setting in that it was the first time a death sentence had been upheld involving an individual with no previous record of criminal activity. O'Bryan v. State, 591 S.W.2d 464 (Tex.Crim.App. 1979), cert. denied sub nom O'Bryan v. Texas, 446 U.S. 988, 100 S.Ct. 2975, 64 L.Ed.2d 846 (1980).
During the last two years of Mr. DeWitt's work at the DA's office, he was General Counsel to the District Attorney. In that position, he was legal counsel for the District Attorney, his over 150 assistants and a staff of approximately 300, along with the occasional responsibilities of representing the Sheriff and other public officials.
His responsibilities as General Counsel included defending challenges to statutes under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he was called upon to represent the District Attorney in Red Bluff Drive-In v. Vance. This consolidated litigation pitted almost every adult business in Texas against most every law enforcement official in the state, in a challenge to the constitutionality of the 1979 amendment to the Texas obscenity statute. Clyde was appointed lead counsel for the over two dozen defendants in the case by United States District Judge Norman Black, who ultimately rejected the constitutional challenge to the statute a judgment which was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Red Bluff Drive-In, Inc. v. Vance, 648 F.2d 1020 (5th Cir. 1981). During the Red Bluff litigation that Clyde met John Weston and his firm – his opponent – with which Clyde ultimately became associated after retiring from the District Attorney's office. In the ensuing four years, he operated a law office in Houston, Texas which was affiliated with the predecessor to his former Los Angeles firm.
Ironically, in 1983, Mr. Weston and Mr. DeWitt teamed up before Texas' highest court to challenge an obscenity conviction of one Michael Wayne Hoyle. The irony occurred when the Court of Criminal Appeals struck down as unconstitutional exactly the same statute which the federal court refused to strike down when Mr. DeWitt was defending it as a public servant. Hoyle v. State, 672 S.W.2d 233 (Tex.Crim.App. 1984).
After distinguishing himself for four years as a First Amendment and criminal defense lawyer in Houston, Clyde moved to Los Angeles in 1985 to join the staff of his former firm in which he was a partner until 2008. He has become one of the elite – and perhaps the most recognized – attorney in the United States whose practice focuses on adult entertainment.
Mr. DeWitt has represented the free-expression interests of clients in dozens of state and federal jurisdictions from coast to coast. Having both written and lectured extensively on the subject, he also is a past president and national chairman of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, a national organization of attorneys from around the United States who regularly represent clients whose free speech interests are threatened by government.
During the course of all this, he has developed a broad base of experience in successful litigation. This ranges from a large number of civil cases challenging speech regulations in state and federal court to defense of criminal obscenity charges and other violations of speech regulations. He has also been involved in an impressive array of litigation, in both the federal system and in many states, including civil and criminal jury and court trials, as well as a significant number of appeals; these matters range from complex criminal fraud cases to trials involving copyright and trademark infringement.
One of his more interesting cases involved a county zoning ordinance in Miami. In 1996, the County enacted a zoning ordinance that would have eliminated materially every adult bookstore and adult cabaret in the county. Mr. DeWitt acted as lead counsel in a suit against the county, which ultimately resulted in a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinance. Rather than face trial, the county amended the ordinance in an effort to cure its constitutional defects. He led another action, challenging the amended ordinance. After a trial, the amended ordinance was also held unconstitutional. The plaintiff adult bookstores and cabarets all remain in business to this day. University Books and Videos, Inc. v. Metropolitan Dade County, 930 F.Supp. 1534 (S.D.Fla. 1996); University Books and Videos, Inc. v. Miami-Dade County, 132 F.Supp.2d 1008 (S.D.Fla. 2001). Additionally, Mr. DeWitt recovered for his clients a total of over $340,000 of attorneys fees in these cases.
All of that background has evolved into what now is a broader client base, including a greater transactional practice. The nature of the world has propelled him into the two, fastest growing areas of litigation, intellectual property (copyrights and trademarks) and employment law.
Notwithstanding his tenacity as a litigator and transaction attorney, Mr. DeWitt is a an engaging writer and speaker, having written a monthly legal column for the Adult Video News family of publications since the later 1980’s. He is also featured on legal panels at adult industry conventions for decades. One review of a speech he made described him as, “the Will Rogers of Internet Porn (Will there be a Clyde DeWitt State Beach?).” That remains to be seen.
- Doctor of Jurisprudence, University of Houston Law Center, Houston, Texas, 1973. Member, Board of Editors, Houston Law Review; Member, Order of the Barons (Academic Achievement; Order of the Coif was not yet in place); Phi Delta Phi; focus on constitutional law, criminal law and litigation.
- Masters of Science in Accountancy, University of Houston College of Business Administration, Houston, Texas, 1976. Member, Beta Alpha Psi (honorary fraternity for accounting students recognizing academic achievement).
- Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1970.
- February 2008-present: Sole practitioner offering services in California and Nevada.
- 1991-2008: Partner, Weston, Garrou DeWitt & Walters.
- 1985-90: Associate, Brown, Weston & Sarno.
- 1980-85: Private practice, Houston, Texas, of counsel to Brown, Weston & Sarno.
- 1978-80: General Counsel to the District Attorney, Houston, Texas (responsible for representing the District Attorneys Office, the District Attorney and employees in civil matters).
- 1973-78: Assistant District Attorney, Houston, Texas.
- Admitted in Texas (1973).
- Admitted in California (1985).
- Admitted in Nevada (2006)
- Admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court (1976), the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fifth (1974), Sixth (1989), Seventh (1992), Eighth (1986), Ninth (1985), Tenth (1981) and Eleventh (1981) Circuits and the United States District Courts for the Southern (1974) and Western (1981) Districts of Texas and the Central (1985), Eastern (1988), Northern (1992) and Southern (1991) Districts of California.
- Admitted to practice pro hac vice one or more times in the United States District Courts for the Districts of Arizona, the District of Connecticut, the Southern District of Florida, the District of Hawaii, the Northern District of Illinois, the District of Minnesota, the Western District of Missouri, the District of Nevada, the District of New Jersey, the Southern District of New York, the Northern District of Ohio, the District of Oregon, the Western District of Tennessee, the Eastern District of Texas, the Northern District of Texas and the District of Utah, as well as state courts in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Washington.
- Certified criminal law specialist, Texas, 1982.
- Past president and national chair of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, and active member since 1980, regular lecturer on litigation involving censorship, intellectual property and miscellaneous governmental regulations and related topics. FALA is a national organization, which has existed since the 1960s, of approximately 200 attorneys involved in resisting censorship of erotic speech.
- Active member of Beverly Hills Bar Association.
- During career as a prosecutor, regularly lectured to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association and acted in a supervisory capacity in connection with statewide training programs for prosecutors.
LAWYER’S BIOGRAPHICAL DATA FORM [NRPC 1.4(c)]