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Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson
Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson grew up in New Orleans where she attended public schools and graduated as valedictorian at Walter L. Cohen High School. She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, on an academic scholarship and received her B.A. in 1964. One of the first African-American women to attend law school at Louisiana State University, she received her Juris Doctor in January 1969. Justice Johnson received her Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Spelman College in April 2001.
Justice Johnson was the first woman elected to Civil District Court. She was elected in 1984, was reelected without opposition in 1990, and elected Chief Judge in 1994. Justice Johnson has spent much of her legal career working for the poor and disadvantaged. She served as a law intern with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Washington, D.C., and as a legal services attorney with the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation (NOLAC). During the sixties, Justice Johnson worked as a community organizer of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York City. During the seventies, she helped to organize household workers to receive social security benefits and a minimum wage.
Justice Johnson organized the first Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program for the Louis A. Martinet Legal Society, and was Chair of the CLE Committee. Justice Johnson was chosen as one of the Outstanding Women on the Bench by the New Orleans Association of Black Women Attorneys; as a Role Model by the YWCA of Greater New Orleans; was the first recipient of the Ernest N. Morial Award given by NOLAC; was named Women of the Year in 1994 by the LaBelle West Chapter, American Business Women Association; and received the Daniel Byrd award and A.P. Tureaud Citizenship Award from the Louisiana State conference, NAACP. She is a recipient of the American Bar Association prestigious Margaret A. Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.
A much sought after speaker, she is frequently called upon to address school and community groups. She was the Women's History Month speaker at several U.S. military bases in Germany in March 2001.