Tuesday, January 12, 2010
State Bar Executive Director Judy Johnson to Step Down
By a MetNews Staff Writer
State Bar of California Executive Director Judy Johnson will be stepping down next year after a decade in the position, the organization announced yesterday.
Johnson, 60, told the Board of Governors on Saturday that the timing was right for her to move on to new opportunities, a spokesperson said.
In a note, Johnson told the staff:
“I will do all that I can to effect a smooth transition in leadership in an organization that I love and cherish,” and she called on State Bar colleagues to assist in the transition.
Johnson has pledged to work with the State Bar during the next 12 months to identify her successor and assist the organization in transitioning to new leadership by February 2011.
State Bar President Howard Miller praised Johnson as “the heart and soul of the State Bar for the past decade.” Miller also announced that Johnson’s contributions to the State Bar and the legal profession would be recognized at the 2010 Annual Meeting in Monterey.
Johnson was not in the office yesterday and did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Former State Bar President Holly J. Fujie commented that Johnson “had the helm of the State Bar over some very difficult times and she has shown great leadership.” The Board of Governors selected Johnson to lead the State Bar’s day-to-day operations in 2000, making her the first female to hold the position on a permanent basis in the State Bar’s 73-year history, after the attorney discipline system was nearly shut down following former Gov. Pete Wilson’s 1997 veto of annual legislation authorizing the State Bar to collect dues from the state’s lawyers.
The State Bar dues bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger again last October, but has since been reintroduced and is awaiting the governor’s approval. SB 55 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, cleared the state Senate on a 32-0 vote last Wednesday, two days after passing the Assembly, 59-0.
Former State Bar President James O. Heiting opined that Johnson has been “a very dedicated and savvy executive director since the time of our last troubles with the dues bill and the governor’s veto,” adding that “she’ll be tough to replace.”
Although he acknowledged that he and Johnson “didn’t always agree,” Heiting insisted “we did great things” during his term as president.
“And no matter how much head butting there was between me and [Johnson],” he said that he “always appreciated her for the leader that she is and was and for the things that she could accomplish.”
Another ex-president, John Van de Kamp, said Johnson “served the Bar overall very, very well and has had a good career” and that he was “sorry to see her leaving.”
Prior to joining the State Bar as its chief trial counsel in 1994 and succeeding Steve Nissen as executive director in 2000, Johnson worked as a legal aid attorney in Oakland and then as a prosecutor in the consumer and environmental protection unit of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, specializing in civil and criminal prosecution of consumer and major fraud cases.
She was a member of the Board of Governors from 1990 until 1993, and from 1982 to 1985 she served as a member of the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation. Johnson also spent four years as a member of the Committee of Bar Examiners, serving as chair from 1987 to 1988.
A 1971 graduate of Stanford University, Johnson received her law degree in 1976 from the UC Davis School of Law and was admitted to the State Bar that same year.
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