Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Page 1


Superior Court Judge Jerry E. Johnson to Retire


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jerry E. Johnson is retiring after more than 30 years as a jurist, a court spokesperson said yesterday.

The spokesperson said that Johnson, 68, will spend his last day on the bench Nov. 18 at the Compton Courthouse and that he will officially retire March 3.

Johnson joined the bench in 1980, when he was appointed as a commissioner on the Compton Municipal Court. Then-Gov. George Deukmejian named Johnson a judge on that court in 1991, and Johnson served as assistant presiding judge the following year and then as presiding judge from 1993 to 1994.

He joined the Superior Court in 2000 when the courts were unified, and judges from the Court’s South Central District in Compton elected him in 2002 to serve on the Superior Court’s Executive Committee, which formulates policy for the nation’s largest trial court.

Johnson became a member of the State Bar in 1973, and he began his legal career in private practice in Compton in association with attorney Roger J. Pryor handling civil, criminal and probate cases. Before that, he served as a deputy marshal and courtroom bailiff, assigned to the Compton Courthouse, from 1964 to 1970.

His service encompassed the period of the Watts riots, in which 34 people were killed, in 1965. He once told an interviewer that he was leading a squadron on patrol during the time and was hit by a ricocheting bullet. He described the incident as “really frightening”

He also owned J.J. Construction in Hesperia from 1977 to 1980, commuting to his law office in his private plane until he turned the business over to his father.

Born in Clarendon, Ark., where his father was a sharecropper, the future judge came to Los Angeles with his family at the age of 14. He went into law enforcement, he said, at the urging of relatives of his wife who were in the field.

He attended Los Angeles Metropolitan College, El Camino College and Los Angeles State College, which is now California State University, Los Angeles. Johnson began law school at what was then Orange University in Santa Ana on a scholarship he won for an essay he wrote about the peace officer and the lawyer, but he graduated from Pepperdine University School of Law, which acquired Orange University in 1969 and later moved the school to its Malibu campus.

He decided to go to law school, he once explained, because he knew court procedures and saw how much money a lawyer could charge after he told the barrister what to do.

Since joining the State Bar, Johnson has served as a professor at California State University, Long Beach and at South Bay University Law School. He has also served on the board of directors of the nonprofit corporation that oversees the Compton Courts Scholarship Fund, which awards aid to students from Compton and surrounding communities.

Johnson enjoys mountain hiking, and he has hiked to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro—the tallest peak in Africa—and to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.


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