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New Orleans judge receives highest honor from Loyola College of Law

Loyola press release - February 2, 2009

Loyola University New Orleans College of Law alumnus and adjunct professor, retired Judge Calvin Johnson, is the recipient of the 2009 St. Ives Award, the highest honor awarded by the College of Law Alumni Association.

The St. Ives Award, named for the patron saint of lawyers, is presented annually to an alumnus who has volunteered services to the College of Law or the university, maintained the highest standards of the profession and furthered the mission of the alumni association. Judge Johnson was honored at the College of Law Alumni Luncheon on Friday, Feb. 6, at the Hotel InterContinental New Orleans, 444 St. Charles Ave.

“I have received awards and honors in my career,” Johnson said. “To be selected Loyola Law Alumnus of the year leaves me speechless. I am humbled. I hope that in the years to come, by my deeds, I do things worthy of this award.”

Johnson, the former chief judge of the Criminal District Court of New Orleans, was the first African-American elected to a Louisiana state court without first being appointed. Johnson was born in Plaquemines, La., and was active in the civil rights movement from the time he was a teenager. He was once convicted as a juvenile for taking part in a demonstration.

After graduating from the College of Law in 1978, Johnson accepted a position in the New Orleans Public Defender’s Office. He then became a member of Loyola’s clinical faculty, where he handled criminal cases. He resigned in 1990, when he was elected judge.

As a criminal district court judge, Johnson created the state’s first “mental health court,” special proceedings to help those with mental illness who wind up in the criminal justice system. In the days following Hurricane Katrina, Johnson helped court staff move necessities from the courthouse to different sites in the state so cases could continue to be heard. He was also instrumental in seeing the courthouse repaired and reopened by June 2006. Johnson retired from the bench in January 2008.