Division One: Associate Justice Jeffrey W. Johnson

Jeffrey W. Johnson, Associate JusticeJustice Jeffrey W. Johnson has served as an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal since August 3, 2009. He is a member of the Court Facilities Advisory Committee (“CFAC”), appointed by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye in July 2011 to advise the Judicial Council of California on prioritization of courthouse construction projects throughout the state. Justice Johnson is a member of the executive committee of CFAC, and is Chair of its Courthouse Cost Reduction Subcommittee, which facilitates cost savings in each of the judiciary’s courthouse construction and renovation projects and manages implementation of mandated reductions on a day-to-day basis. Currently, the judicial branch of the State of California has $4.3 billion in active construction projects across the state. Another $1.2 billion in construction projects are currently pending. Justice Johnson also serves as a member of the Subcommittee on Courthouse Names, which establishes protocol and provides recommendations for the naming of courthouses statewide. For his efforts on the Cost Reduction Subcommittee, the Judicial Council recognized Justice Johnson with its Distinguished Service Award in July 2017.

He graduated as valedictorian from A.C. Flora High School in Forest Acres, South Carolina in 1978. Justice Johnson was a member of the school’s 1977 state champion two-man debating team. He attended Duke University on full scholarship as an Angier Biddle Duke Scholar (A.B. Duke Scholar) and graduated in 1982 with honors, earning a B.A. with a double major in political science and history. In his spare time, he was a disc jockey for the campus radio station. In 1981, as an A.B. Duke Scholar, Justice Johnson studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University in Oxford, England. He was president of his graduating class at Duke and received the 1982 President Terry Sanford Senior Leadership Award. He also served as the Class Gift Chairman for the Class of 1982’s Fifth Reunion; that gift endowed a need-based scholarship for Duke University undergraduates.

Justice Johnson earned his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1985. His paper on the international law of satellite reconnaissance was awarded the 1985 Gherini Prize for the best analytical paper in the discipline of International Law. While at Yale, Justice Johnson was a member of the law school’s Discipline Policy Committee and Discipline Hearing Committee. He served as a graduate affiliate of Silliman College, advising undergraduate students at a residential college within Yale College. Also, from 1983 to 1985, he volunteered as a “big brother” through Yale’s Dwight Hall Big Brother Adoption program.

After obtaining his law degree, Justice Johnson worked as an associate with the Manatt Phelps law firm in Los Angeles. There, he gained substantial state and federal court civil litigation experience: he represented clients in trials, hearings and arbitrations in diverse practice areas such as real estate, entertainment, corporate transactions, securities, banking, bankruptcy, and employment.

In 1989, he was appointed an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Central District of California. In 1994, he became a Deputy Chief in the Narcotics Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. For his work on a long-term wiretap investigation and prosecution of a nationwide crack cocaine and money laundering network, Justice Johnson received the 1995 Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service, the second highest award given by the United States Department of Justice. From 1997 to 1999, he served on the U.S. Attorney’s Capital Litigation Review Committee, a seven-member committee that reviewed death penalty eligible cases and recommended to the U.S. Attorney whether to seek death penalty authorization from the Attorney General in specific cases. During his tenure, he was recognized nationally as an expert on the use and defense of court-authorized wiretaps in the course of federal criminal investigations and prosecutions. His article, “Defending Wiretaps: ‘Think in the Beginning What the End Will Bring,’” was published in the September 1997 United States Attorneys’ Bulletin. From 1994 to 1997, as a faculty member of the Office of Legal Education in the U.S. Department of Justice, he taught “Evidence for Experienced Criminal Litigators.”

During his ten years as a federal prosecutor, Justice Johnson received numerous awards and commendations for his work on behalf of the United States, including:

  • FBI Commendation for Outstanding Contribution to Supermail Investigation, April 1999;
  • U.S. Attorney's Commendation for Supporting Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee ("LECC") Programs, July 1998;
  • Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division Commendation, May 1997;
  • Drug Enforcement Administration Commendation for Outstanding Contributions, May 1997;
  • FBI Director’s Commendation, 1995 and 1996;
  • U.S. Attorney’s Commendation for Supporting LECC Programs, June 1996;
  • U.S. Department of Justice Employee Volunteer Service Award, April 1996;
  • FBI, Los Angeles Division Commendation for Outstanding Efforts in the Prosecution of Major Drug Offenders, May 1995;
  • California Attorney General’s Commendation, April 1995;
  • Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Commendation, December 1994;
  • U.S. Department of Justice Special Achievement Award for Sustained Superior Performance of Duty, September 1994;
  • FBI Director’s Commendation for Exceptional Service in the Public Interest, February and July 1994;
  • U.S. Department of Justice Special Achievement Award for Meritorious Acts or Service Performed on Behalf of the Department, September 1992; and
  • U.S. Customs Service Commendation, 1992.

Justice Johnson joined the federal bench as a United States Magistrate Judge in April 1999. While on the federal bench, he served on several committees of the United States District Court for the Central District of California:

  • Court Automation Committee, 1999 to 2001;
  • Rules Committee, 1999 to 2001;
  • Jury Committee, 2002;
  • Capital Case Committee (which oversaw the court’s handling of death penalty cases), 1999 to 2008;
  • Civil Justice Reform Act and Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee (2003-2009); and
  • Criminal Justice Act Committee, 2009.

Justice Johnson also served on the Ninth Circuit’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee from 2002 to 2010. The committee is dedicated to making resources and infrastructure for mediation, arbitration and other settlement processes—in lieu of trial—available to litigants and lawyers throughout the courts of the Ninth Circuit.

Justice Johnson remains active in the legal community. He is currently serving his second term on the board of directors of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers (“ABTL”). He has also served terms on the board of the Federal Bar Association and is a lifetime member of the Langston Bar Association. Justice Johnson received the Mexican American Bar Association’s Judicial Excellence Award in 2008. In July 2009, the Coalition of Mental Health Professionals, Inc. recognized Justice Johnson with The Justice Thurgood Marshall Award for Humanitarianism and Judicial Achievement. Since the project’s inception in 2015, he has served as a member of the steering committee of the Just the Beginning Summer Legal Institute (Los Angeles). Over a four to five-day period each summer, the institute exposes high school students to legal careers, the opportunity to build legal and professional skills, and connections with judges, lawyers, and other leaders in the legal profession.

Justice Johnson has served as a guest lecturer in trial advocacy at UCLA School of Law, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Loyola Law School, and University of West Los Angeles School of Law. He has also taught Evidence as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University West Los Angeles School of Law.

Justice Johnson is also engaged in activities outside the legal community, specifically mentoring youth and supporting youth-related causes. For many years, Justice Johnson coached boys and girls in youth soccer and youth basketball. Justice Johnson holds a second degree Black Belt in Hapkido karate and has taught the Black Belt curriculum to numerous children and young adults. Additionally, he visits classrooms to read to grade-school students and talk to them about the importance of education as well as setting and pursuing goals. Annually, during the holiday season and as otherwise needed, he coordinates the collection and distribution of toys, books, and clothing to indigent children in the schools he serves. In February 2003, the faculty and students of Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Los Angeles honored him with the school’s Life Achievement Award as part of its Black History Month Celebration. His efforts have also garnered him several California Department of Education Commendations and Los Angeles Unified School District Service Commendations:

  • California Department of Education Service Commendations, 1997 to 2004;
  • Los Angeles Unified School District Service Commendations, 1997 to 2004;
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary Award for Special Service, March 2001;
  • Kester Avenue School Commendation for Ten Years of Participation in Career Awareness Day, March 2002;
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School Honoree: “Judge Jeffrey Johnson Day,” June 4, 2002;
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary Award for Community Outreach, 2002 and 2003;
  • 93rd Street Elementary School Award for Special Service, 2003.

Justice Johnson formerly sat on the board of the nonprofit organization Bright Star Schools, Inc., which operates two charter high schools and three charter middle schools in economically disadvantaged areas of Los Angeles.

In conjunction with the U.S. Army War College and the Institute on Science for Global Policy, Justice Johnson participated in the conference on “Climate Impact on National Security” (CINS), which convened at the War College in May 2017. He is a strong supporter of military service members, veterans, and their families. Since 2010, Justice Johnson has served as a member of the United States Army Advisory Board for the Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion. He is a 2013 and 2017 fellow of the United States Army War College National Security Seminar and a Lifetime Member of the United States Army War College Foundation. In 2012, Justice Johnson also participated in the California State Military Child Public Engagement Forum that discussed approaches to address the emotional challenges that children of deployed parents face.