In 1990, he was appointed as a judge to the Los Angeles Municipal Court, where he served until 1997, when he was elevated to the Los Angeles Superior Court by Governor Pete Wilson. Among other assignments as a superior court judge, Justice Willhite served as a criminal trial judge in a high security courtroom hearing primarily lengthy trials in need of special security precautions, and also served as a civil trial judge hearing a wide variety of civil lawsuits.
In 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Justice Willhite as an Associate Justice to Division 4 of the Second Appellate District.
Justice Willhite has been a judicial education instructor in such topics as sentencing, habeas corpus proceedings, and judicial ethics. He is an avid fly fisher, a sport he enjoys with his wife Gale and their two daughters.