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Interview with Ed Johnson, February 3, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:44 - Early life / Role models

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about your early life and how you decided to become a lawyer.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his early life and education in Grantville, Georgia, being inspired to study law by the other lawyers in his family, and attending high school in Atlanta.

Keywords: Grantville, Georgia; Vietnam War; mill town; textile mills

00:10:20 - College / Working with Zell Miller

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Partial Transcript: I went to college...daddy, you know like so many people today...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson reflects on attending Georgia State University as an undergraduate and then attending law school at Vanderbilt University. He reflects on first meeting Zell Miller during Miller's race for Lieutenant Governor, and becoming involved in his campaign. Johnson describes assisting Miller in his Lieutenant Governor role by serving as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Johnson also discusses being mentored by different state senators, including Tommy Holland.

Keywords: Georgia State University; Lieutenant Governor of Georgia; Senate Judiciary Committee; Vanderbilt University; Zell Miller

00:19:30 - First political race

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Partial Transcript: Tell us about your first race.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson recalls his decision to run for an open senate seat in his district, an opportunity made possible by the bad publicity surrounding local-interest politics of the incumbent candidate. He describes his incoming familiarity with the Georgia State Senate due to his work under Lieutenant Governor Miller, and consequently, being assigned to his preferred committees despite being a freshman senator.

Keywords: Georgia State Senate; campaign race; committee assignment; local -interest politics

00:28:57 - Teacher pay raise / Non-partisan politics

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Partial Transcript: In addition to you, there were a handful of senators who were very, very effective...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson mentions senators that he has worked with, including Al Holloway, Culver Kidd, and Tom Allgood, among others. He describes his role in pushing Governor Zell Miller's agenda on the Senate floor, particularly legislation concerning a teachers' pay raise. Johnson also reflects on the state of partisan politics during the late '70s and early 80s.

Keywords: Al Holloway; Culver Kidd; Tom Allgood; Zell Miller; pay raise; teacher salaries

00:36:54 - Judiciary career

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Partial Transcript: So you went from the Senate to the Judiciary.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson reflects on his run for election to the state court, and discusses the three-tiered and county-funded structure of the court system in Georgia. He describes challenges to the court system's efficiency, including a systematic shortage of judges and of material resources.

Keywords: Fulton County State Court; Georgia Court of Appeals; court expansion; judicial system

00:52:02 - Superior Court

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Partial Transcript: So you were an experienced judge when you went on the Superior Court.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson reflects on the need for non-partisanship in the judicial branch and law enforcement. He comments on the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches. He also mentions his aspiration to be on the U.S Supreme Court.

Keywords: Superior Court of Georgia; judicial branch

01:02:32 - Court of Appeals structure

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Partial Transcript: I would like now to impose upon you to talk a little bit about the Court of Appeals...

Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes the structure of the Georgia Court of Appeals, the caseload distribution mechanism, and the deadlines for trying cases. He talks about the increased gender and racial diversity on the court over the years. Johnson also discusses the responsibilities of being a Chief Judge.

Keywords: Chief Judge; diversity; gender; presiding judge; race; seniority

01:14:39 - Changes in oral arguments

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Partial Transcript: You spoke of computer filings.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson comments on the digitization of court documents, and the decline in oral arguments in response to managing an ever growing caseload. He mentions alternatives ways of asking lawyers questions about a case.

Keywords: digitization of records; oral argument

01:19:47 - DNA Evidence / Death penalty

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Partial Transcript: Well, we all realize that our court system is not one hundred percent fault-proof.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the increase in cases overturned based on DNA evidence. He talks about eyewitness testimony and consequences of wrongful conviction, and how they play into the debate over death penalty versus life without parole. Johnson mentions cost as a factor when comparing death penalty trials versus the daily cost of maintaining an inmate.

Keywords: DNA evidence; Mike Bowers; death penalty; eyewitness testimony; life without parole

01:30:35 - Life outside of work

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about Judge Johnson's activities outside of judging on the Court of Appeals.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his hobbies, including teaching law at Mercer University and participating in Boy Scouts with his younger son, and mentions the importance of a work-life balance.He talks about his wife's career as a judge.

Keywords: Boy Scouts of America; Mercer University; State Department of Workers' Compensation