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Born: June 10, 1933Appointed: Dec. 4, 1982, by BrownPrevious work of note: Professor/associate professor, USC Law Center 1969-82. Director/deputy director, Legal Services Program, U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, 1965-1968, Trial lawyer, organized crime section, U.S. Department of Justice.Law degree: University of Chicago School of Law (1960)Earl Johnson is one of the last of a dying breed on the California Court of Appeal: an honest-to-goodness liberal, a frequent dissenter, and a prolific author of published opinions. His background — academia and legal services for the poor — also has grown rare among California judges.Known in some segments of the bar as “the Earl of Torts,” his opinion in Parsons v. Crown Disposal Co., 46 Cal.App.4th 1463, allowing an injured horseman to sue the garbage truck driver who spooked his horse, is classic Johnson. It was just barely reversed by a divided California Supreme Court.But Johnson’s liberal streak doesn’t get him into trouble all that often with the higher court. In fact, his smoothly crafted opinion in Green v. Ralee Engineering, 52 Cal.App.4th 1534, persuaded the Supreme Court to rethink its definition of wrongful termination in violation of public policy. And some of his dissents are put to good use: The Supreme Court ultimately agreed with him and reversed a colleague’s opinion on loan prepayment penalties (Ridgley v. Topa Thrift & Loan, 54 Cal.App.4th 729). Other times, though, they fall on deaf ears. And Johnson does come down on the conservative side occasionally. His ruling in L.A. County Metropolitan Transit Authority v. Continental Development Corp., 50 Cal.App.4th 410 (1996) upheld a commercial developer’s property rights. The Supreme Court reversed, but had to overrule 90 years’ worth of precedents to do so.On the criminal side, Johnson has been endorsed by both L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti and Public Defender Michael Judge.His Division Seven publishes by far the most opinions of any appellate panel in the state, in substantial part due to his own whopping 57 majority opinions in the two years ending in October 1998. That number included four that were later depublished by the Supreme Court. While Johnson and his staff appear to be working hard, some justices criticize the panel for publishing too many cases that don’t make significant new law.Division Seven fell in the middle range of efficiency on the Second District as of 1998, with a median 89 days from briefing to decision in civil appeals, 83 in criminal appeals.

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