Office History

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office was created by an act of the California State Legislature on Feb. 27, 1850. There have been 42 District Attorneys who have served the county, starting with William C. Ferrell. You may learn more about each District Attorney below.

Frank P. Kelly

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1888 - 1890
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Frank P. Kelly, originally from Philadelphia, came to California in 1867. He first studied to be a printer, worked as a reporter and became editor of the Santa Barbara Press.

James McLachlan

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1890 - 1892
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James McLachlan was born in Scotland and as a young boy, immigrated with his family to New York, where they were farmers.

Henry C. Dillon

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1892 - 1894
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Henry Clay Dillon was born in Wisconsin and practiced law in both his home state and Colorado before coming to California in the late 1880s.

John C. Donnell

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1895 - 1899
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John C. Donnell was born in Indiana. Before arriving in Los Angeles in 1887, he was a successful lawyer in another adopted state, Iowa.

James C. Rives

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1899 - 1903
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James C. Rives was born in Atlanta, Georgia and came to Los Angeles as a young child with his family in the late 1860s via ox-cart.

John D. Fredericks

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1903 - 1915
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John D. Fredericks came to California in 1891, taught at Whittier State School, and was admitted to the California Bar Association in 1895.

Thomas Lee Woolwine

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1915 - 1923
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Public corruption and vice were high on the list of targets of this reform-minded prosecutor.

Asa Keyes

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1923 - 1928
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Asa “Ace” Keyes had been a deputy district attorney for two decades before taking over as District Attorney with the retirement of Thomas Woolwine in 1923.

Buron Fitts

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1928 - 1940
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Buron Fitts was a proud veteran of World War I, returning with a knee injured in a gunshot wound that would require a score of operations over his life to avoid amputation.

John F. Dockweiller

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1940 - 1943
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John Dockweiler served three terms in the U.S. Congress, from 1933 to 1939, before winning the 1940 District Attorney’s race against incumbent Buron Fitts.

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