2015 Diversity Leadership Award
Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson
Chief Justice Johnson is the first African American Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Her formal investiture ceremony was held February 28, 2013. She was first elected to serve on the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1994 and was re-elected, without opposition, in 2000 and 2010. She serves on the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Judicial Council and has served on the Court’s Legal Services Task Force, as well as the National Campaign on Best Practices in the area of Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. Justice Johnson has worked closely with the Court’s Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Committee and the Committee on Bar Admissions.
For much of her life, Chief Justice Johnson has worked as an advocate for social justice, civil rights, and community organizing. During the 1960’s, she worked as a community organizer with the NAACP, Legal Defense & Educational Fund. While in law school, Chief Justice Johnson worked at the U.S. Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division) in Washington, D.C., examining cases filed by the Department to implement the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She also served as a Federal Observer during elections in Greenwood, Mississippi.
Following law school, Chief Justice Johnson became the Managing Attorney with the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation, where she provided legal services to over 3,000 clients in socio-economically deprived neighborhoods. In 1981, Chief Justice Johnson joined the City Attorney’s staff, and later became a Deputy City Attorney for the City of New Orleans.
Chief Justice Johnson’s judicial career began in 1984 as the first woman elected to serve on the Civil District Court of New Orleans. She was re-elected, without opposition, in 1990 and was elected Chief Judge by her colleagues in 1994.
Chief Justice Johnson is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2009 Distinguished Jurist Award presented by the Louisiana Bar Foundation and the Louisiana Bar Association President’s Award for Exceptional Service as co-chair of the Task Force on Diversity in the Profession. She has twice been presented with the Louis A. Martinet Legal Society’s President’s Award, in 1997 and 2008.
Chief Justice Johnson has served as an Executive Committee Member of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College (1991-1994); Chair of the New Orleans Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1989-1994); Member of the Martin Luther King National Holiday Planning Committee; Member of the Board of Directors of the Young Women Christian Association; and Life Member of the NAACP.