John Francis Pullen was born in Roseville, and grew up in Auburn, where he graduated Placer High School in 1903. Pullen was educated at the University of California at Berkeley (AB, 1907; JD, 1909), and during his college years he spent his summers as a ship's waiter, traveling to Japan, China, and the Philippines, to earn his college expenses. After his admission to the California Bar in 1909, he practiced briefly in San Francisco but returned that same year to Sacramento. In 1923, Governor Richardson appointed Pullen to the newly created fourth department of the Superior Court of Sacramento County. He ran for Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, defeating the incumbent Hugh L. Preston, who had been appointed acting presiding justice after the death of William Finch. Justice Pullen died suddenly of a heart attack on November 10, 1941.