ILNews

Leadership in Law 2013: James D. Johnson

Partner, Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson LLP, Evansville Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

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johnson-james2-15col.jpg (IL Photo/DIA Photography, David Greene)

James D. Johnson is an outstanding business partner who has contributed to the firm’s success and growth from its four original founding partners to 21 attorneys today. He’s established a trusted, reliable reputation in the Evansville legal community and beyond. Jim is an accomplished litigator who has a “take charge” personality yet listens and shows empathy and concern. He is actively involved with the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, serving as president elect. He served as DTCI’s amicus chair for more than 10 years, filing many cases on behalf of the organization. Jim serves on many nonprofit boards and as a community volunteer, including his regular stint as a Ronald McDonald House front desk host, making new guests feel welcome.

If you could take a sabbatical from the law for a year to work your fantasy job, what job would you choose?
A bartender at a tiki bar in the Caribbean. Pleasant surroundings and meet people when they are relaxed.

If you could meet and spend a day with one lawyer from history, who would it be and why?
Clarence Darrow. His practice covered the gambit of the law for his era, e.g. labor, railroad and individual rights. He would be a good person to have a drink (or two) with.

What civic cause is the most important to you?
Ronald McDonald House. It is there for people when they are at their most vulnerable – a sick child.

What is your best stress reliever?
Exercise. I am one person before I exercise and another person afterward.

In life or law, what bugs you?
People who treat children badly. All it does is create bad behavior in the child. If we could somehow teach kindness to the public, we could stop the cycle of rudeness, ignorance and stupidity.

What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
I would first encourage him. I would say the dedication and work he is putting in will pay off in ways he couldn’t imagine. I would then try to give him some pause and say his profession is important, but it isn’t everything.

Would a world without 24/7 technology be a good or bad thing?
A bad thing. The opportunity to know what is going on is a positive. It allows us to work remotely and incorporate more of our lives into our work time. It is up to the individual if he/she wants to stay in constant touch.

What do you find scary?
Not being able to have an impact on the lives of the people I care about.

Numerous TV shows center around lawyers and their practices. Are any of them close to realistic?
No. I haven’t seen a show yet that shows a lawyer sitting at his/her desk answering discovery.

What class in law school did you find the most difficult?
Constitution law. It always seemed like a moving target.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The power to transport. So when I am in a boring meeting, I could instantly leave.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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