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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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