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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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