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Incoming DTCI president sets priorities for new year

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

Bloomington attorney Lonnie D. Johnson is looking forward to serving as the new president of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana.

“The president of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana is sort of akin to the president of the United States – not in terms of power, but it’s sort of a pulpit to get to do whatyou want to do with it.”

johnson-lonnie-15col.jpg Lonnie D. Johnson, of Bloomington firm Clendening Johnson & Bohrer, discusses goals as incoming president of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. One goal includes continuing the promotion of civility in the legal profession. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Because he’s been gradually moving up the ranks to becoming DTCI president, he’s been collecting ideas from members to help him focus his priorities for 2012.

“What I’ve tried to do over the past two years is talk to people and see what areas interest members, what areas don’t,” he said. “Everyone who’s ever had this position has said: don’t try to do too much – pick two or three critical things and delegate. The one thing that I want to do is carry on the theme of civility that Scott Kyrouac started last year. I think that it’s important.”

Kyrouac said he was pleased that one of the priorities in Johnson’s ambitious agenda is to carry on the quest to promote civility in the legal profession.

Other plans

Johnson explained that 13 years ago, DTCI was closely connected to the insurance industry. That was before insurance companies had in-house attorneys to handle litigation, so many DTCI members worked for insurance companies. Much has changed and, nowadays, many DTCI members have never worked on insurance cases. All of the different professional backgrounds within DTCI can make the organization’s lobbying priorities difficult to determine.

“There’s always going to be some disagreement about what we should do on a particular bill or whether we should file an amicus brief in a particular case, but I think most members would agree that we need to better define our purpose and standards by which to judge what our actions should be with regard to filing briefs and in the Legislature.”

To accomplish that goal, Johnson is organizing a committee to clarify what DTCI’s priorities are.

He said another goal is to launch at the state level an initiative developed by the Defense Research Institute.

“Tom Schultz and John Trimble, who are past DTCI presidents, are very involved in the Defense Research Institute initiative to support an independent judiciary and to try to inform the public to take a broader picture of judges and not determine the fate of judges based on one single issue,” Johnson said. “I think one thing attorneys all agree on … is that the judiciary should be independent from the other branches of government.” (See related story in this focus.)

Choosing law

Johnson didn’t start out wanting a career in law. He earned an associate degree in mechanical drafting, but quickly figured out that wasn’t the right job for him.

“I knew I wanted to go to college. I didn’t really know much about (professions) other than lawyers, doctors, accountants and engineers. I was close enough to engineering to know that I didn’t really have the mathematical mind for that or accounting. I don’t particularly like blood or hospitals, so I thought I’d go to law school.” He clarified that the answer he gave during the law school admission process was more elaborate.

Since being admitted to the bar in 1992, Johnson has found that what he enjoys the most about being a lawyer is the people and the practice of law itself.

“The cases I have, I usually have a lot of co-defendants from all over the state, and I really enjoy being part of the tradition, meeting lawyers, judges from all over the state and feeling like you’re part of that tradition,” he said. “You can have a case one day in South Bend and see attorneys that you haven’t seen in a while, and then the next day, you have a case in Evansville.”

But being a defense lawyer can have its downside, too.

“Most of us that deal in litigation, at some point you’re involved in cases that are very emotional because of the underlying tragedy. You have to learn over the years to put that to one side, do your job and deal with the emotions,” Johnson said. “That’s probably one of the most difficult aspects, just having those very trying, difficult catastrophes – that’s what so many lawsuits are based on.”

Other interests

Johnson is a sportsman in his spare time.

“Fly fishing is probably my most time-consuming hobby,” he said. “I take a couple of trips a year to attempt to catch trout. That usually doesn’t work out so well. Mostly I fish in Indiana.”

He’s been married for 33 years and has two adult children. And he says people often ask him if he’s related to Lonnie Lee Johnson, an attorney with Taft Stettinius & Hollister. He’s not.

“That causes a lot of confusion,” he said. “I had a case with Taft and I was at their office on Monday, and there were a lot of funny stories about the two names. In fact, in my early involvement in this organization, when I was on the board of editors, somebody said, how come you haven’t done any work on this? We’ve emailed you like five times.

“But it wasn’t me – they were emailing the other Lonnie Johnson.”

Respect of his peers

Johnson is a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, an honor that is extended by invitation only after being nominated by a peer. Martha Hollingsworth of Bingham McHale and Gary Price of Lewis & Kappes nominated him for that honor.

Trimble said Johnson has a keen understanding of the issues that affect defense lawyers.

“Lonnie is a lawyer who brings very broad practice experience to his position at DTCI,” Trimble said. “It will give him the perspective to understand and address the issues that are important to all DTCI members and their clients.”

Having served on the board for three years before moving up through the officer ranks, Johnson is up for the challenges of serving as president.

“Your first year as treasurer is probably more difficult because you have the responsibility for putting on the annual meeting,” he said. “By the time you become president, you know the organization pretty well.”•
 

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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.

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  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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