OXNARD, CA, August 30, 2017 /24-7PressRelease/
-- JUSTICE EARL JOHNSON, JR. (Ret.) demonstrated he was worthy of an Albert Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award through a multi-faceted career as a trial lawyer, government official, law professor, appellate judge, prolific author, and historian. He was born and raised in Watertown, South Dakota, the only child of Earl and Doris Johnson. Johnson received his B.A. with Honors in Economics from Northwestern University where he was a debater and demonstrated some leadership potential when elected student body president. After serving three years as a naval officer, he obtained his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School where he earned a seat on the editorial board of the UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW REVIEW while also working half-time as a research assistant at the American Bar Foundation. He then was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship to pursue an L.L.M. in Criminal Law from Northwestern University School of Law. Johnson wrote his thesis on the subject of organized crime, later published as a three-installment law review article the congressional counsel found helpful in the design and justification of anti-organized crime legislation the U.S. Congress enacted in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Upon graduation, Johnson's LLM thesis led to a position as a trial lawyer with the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the Justice Department conducting grand jury investigations and trying cases in various parts of the country and ultimately opening OCR's field office in Las Vegas. In late 1964, his career took a sharp turn from criminal to civil law when he was recruited to be Deputy Director of a Ford Foundation funded experimental neighborhood law office program in Washington, D.C. A year later he was appointed the first Deputy Director of the national Legal Services Program of the Office of Economic Opportunity, a key part of the "War on Poverty' and the first time the federal government financed legal aid to serve poor people in civil cases. Eight months later Johnson took over as the second Director of that program. During his tenure, the program grew to almost 2000 lawyers serving in over 800 local offices in more than 300 cities, towns, and rural areas across the country.
After leaving government, Johnson became a professor of law at the University of Southern California. While at U.S.C. he helped create and co-directed the USC Clinical Semester which won the Justin Dart Award for Academic Innovation in 1971. He later directed a multi-disciplinary research program, the Program on Dispute Resolution Policy, housed at the USC Social Science Research Center. During summers in the 1970s and for the year of 1975, he was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Florence (Italy), where he co-directed an international study of access to justice initiatives around the world. During that period, he authored JUSTICE AND REFORM (1974), a book about the creation and early years of the OEO Legal Services Program, co-authored TOWARD EQUAL JUSTICE (1975, 1981), the first book to compare the development of legal aid systems around the world, co-authored OUTSIDE THE COURTS (1976), a book on the development of alternative dispute resolution in the United States, and authored several articles and book chapters on the topics of legal aid, alternative dispute resolution, the constitutional right to counsel in civil cases, and access to justice. In the meantime, he conceived and began writing an innovative five-volume trial practice set, CALIFORNIA TRIAL GUIDE (1986--) which proved a bestseller for the publisher and led to its replication in eight other states and for the federal courts.
Meanwhile, in 1970-71 he was active on other fronts in support of civil legal aid. He proposed and co-drafted the first version of the Legal Services Corporation legislation to take over from the OEO Legal Services Program when the "War on Poverty" was dismantled, a later version of which was enacted in 1974. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he served on the California State Bar's standing committee on legal services for the poor and was active in that committee's successful effort to create the state's Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA) program, to provide additional funding for legal aid. In 1977, then Professor Johnson received the first annual Loren Miller Legal Services Award from the California State Bar "for outstanding leadership in bringing legal services to California's poor."
In 1982, Johnson's career took another sharp turn, when he was appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Seven at the time that Division was first created. Before retiring from the bench in late 2007 he had authored over 600 published opinions as well as several thousand unpublished ones. In his quarter century on the court, Justice Johnson received many awards, most for his performance as an appellate judge, but some for his other contributions as well. Among the former, he was twice named the "Appellate Justice of the Year" by the Consumer Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, and once was named the "Appellate Judge of the Year" by the Consumer Attorneys of California. One year the Los Angeles County Bar Association named him the "Outstanding Jurist" among the county's more than 600 federal and state, trial and appellate judges. He also received the "Maynard Toll" Award from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the "Beacon of Justice" award from the Friends of the Los Angeles County Law Library, and the "Judge Benjamin Aranda Access to Justice Award," from the California Judicial Council, the California State Bar, and the California Judges Association. The state's leading legal newspaper, the DAILY JOURNAL, named him one of the 100 most influential members of the legal profession in California, the only state judge other than the Chief Justice to be so honored that year. During that time, he also was added to the online "Norwegian-American Hall of Fame."
During his career, Johnson has chaired or been a member of over thirty boards of directors of community organizations and bar association committees. From 1976 through 1983 he was a member of the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Dispute Resolution. He suggested and chaired the California State Bar's "Access to Justice Working Group" from 1994-96 which issued a report that led to the creation of the California Commission on Access to Justice in 1997, a body on which he has served ever since. At about the same time, he proposed and chaired the Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library that opened at American University in 1997. The Library now occupies its own space at Georgetown University Law Center's law library, and is dedicated to acquiring and preserving the history of civil legal aid and indigent criminal defense in the United States. He was a member of the Research Advisory Committee of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation from 1997-2014, and its chair from 1999-2002. Johnson is one of the few American members of the International Legal Aid Group (ILAG), an organization of scholars from all over the world who specialize in research and writing on legal aid and related access to justice issues. In 2005-06, he was asked to be the Senior Advisor to the ABA Presidential Task Force on Access to Justice. He was a member of its 3-person drafting committee that produced the resolution urging governments to guarantee counsel as a matter of right in cases involving basic human needs which the ABA House of Delegates approved in August, 2006.
Since retiring from the court, he has spent time as a Visiting Scholar at both the University of Southern California and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. His primary activity has been researching and writing a three-volume history of civil legal aid in the United States from 1876 to the current day. This set was published by Praeger in 2014 as TO ESTABLISH JUSTICE FOR ALL. He also has written several articles and spoken at several national and state conferences about legal services and access to justice issues. He served as a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (2007-2010) and the ABA Working Group on a Civil Right to Counsel (2009- ). He was on the Working Group's drafting committee which prepared the ABA Model Access Act and its Principles for Implementing a Civil Right to Counsel, both of which were passed by the ABA House of Delegates in 2010. He has been a member of the steering committee of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel since 2008 and currently chairs the Implementation Committee for the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Pilot Project program the California Legislature authorized and funded in 2010.
Earl Johnson's accomplishments have been recognized for many years in volumes of WHO'S WHO IN AMERICA, WHO'S WHO IN THE WORLD, WHO'S WHO IN AMERICAN LAW, and WHO'S WHO IN THE WEST, both before and after his appointment to the appellate court.
Justice Johnson is married to Barbara Yanow Johnson, has three children, Kelly Johnson, Eric Johnson, and Agaarn Johnson, and two grandchildren, Emma and Camille Pua'a. In his spare time, Johnson walks his dog on the beach, enjoys foreign travel, reads mysteries, history, and public policy, is an avid amateur photographer and videographer, and watches spectator sports on TV, especially football and tennis.
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