Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, December 30, 2011


Page 3


Former Superior Court Presiding Judge Thomas T. Johnson Dead at 88


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Funeral arrangements are pending for former Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Thomas T. Johnson.

He died Wednesday at his home of congestive heart failure, at the age of 88, court officials said.

While he led the court for two years, the judge may be best known for having presided over a 1981 dispute between a Hungarian-born Jew and the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust-denial group.

The plaintiff, Auschwitz survivor Mel Mermelstein, successfully sought damages from the group, saying it failed to make good on its offer to pay $50,000 for verifiable proof of the extermination of Jews at the Nazi concentration camp in Poland. Johnson granted the plaintiff’s motion for judicial notice, saying the extermination of Jews by gas chamber at the camp during the summer of 1944 was a legally incontestable fact. 

A native of Kentucky, Johnson attended the University of Louisville but left after one year to join the U.S. Navy.

He served as a deck officer on the USS Lexington during World War II before returning to Louisville and earning a degree in mechanical engineering in 1947. Johnson remained at the university for law school, which he completed in 1949.

After joining the Kentucky State Bar that same year, Johnson went to work for the U.S. Department of Justice and was sent to California to assist in the distribution of reparations to Japanese-Americans who had lost assets when sent to relocations camps during World War II.

He then returned to Kentucky where he worked in private practice for a year, before being hired by a photo engraving company to set up a branch plant in Oakland. Johnson relocated to Venice in 1957, working as a sales manager for a hobby kit manufacturer.

Johnson was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1959 and subsequently helped form the firm of Danielson Johnson & Bugard.

In 1971, he was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by then-Gov. Ronald Regan, and two years later, he was elevated to the Superior Court.

Johnson served as assistant presiding judge in 1983 and 1984, then as presiding judge in 1985 and 1986, and he retired from the bench in 1989.

Survivors include his wife, Marianne Johnson.


Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company