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Conscientious Lawyer Disbarred

August 18, 2006 permalink

One reason a lawyer does not fight vigorously for you in family court is that he, in this case she, could lose her license. Here is the case of activist lawyer Barbara Johnson in Massachusetts.



Activist lawyer disbarred Barbara Johnson ran for governor in 2002

— ANDOVER - Barbara Johnson, the flamboyant Andover lawyer who fought for the rights of fathers, campaigned for governor in an antique fire engine and drove a hearse to Washington, D.C., to protest divorce laws, has been barred from practicing law in Massachusetts.

Johnson, 71, who also has been an acerbic critic of the Massachusetts court system, said yesterday she'll fight her disbarment all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yesterday, she called the process under which she was disbarred a "kangaroo court," and compared the state to a Third World country, but remained nonchalant about life after losing her license.

"They'll disbar me, which is fine. I'll write my judicial murder mysteries," Johnson said. "I'm going to kill off a judge in the prologue of every one. It'll be like a Where's Waldo murder mystery, and I'll use real names for the judges."

"I'm having so much fun," she said with a grin, puffing one of her always-lit cigarettes and letting out the gravelly laugh which became familiar during her 2002 independent gubernatorial campaign.

Johnson may have had too much fun, though, bringing her contentious public persona into the courtroom and bringing confidential legal matters into public light.

Judge Francis Spina of the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled Aug. 16 in favor of the disbarment recommendation by the Board of Bar Overseers writing that "the judicial system and the public must be protected from her repeated misconduct."

Johnson was disbarred for putting sensitive confidential information from two of her cases on her Web site, for refusing to pay legal fines after being held in contempt, and for conducting herself in an "insulting, vituperative" manner in court, among other charges.

"The respondent's misconduct has been directed toward her clients, opposing parties, other counsel, judges and other adjudicators, witnesses and innocent third parties," Spina wrote. "She has made inflammatory and contemptuous statements both verbally and in writing on her website. ... Her misconduct demonstrates her outright refusal to conform her conduct to professional standards and ethical requirements."

Johnson admits to her colorful language and tenacious demeanor, but she dismissed the rest as the corrupt Massachusetts justice system's "purely political" response to its most vocal critic. She notes in particular that the charges came down just three weeks after the 2002 gubernatorial election.

In that race, Johnson spent $52,000 of her own money, petitioned herself onto the ballot, and got herself on several televised debates with the four other candidates, arguing a platform of father's rights, court reform, and the abolition of judge immunity.

She also rode an antique firetruck plastered with campaign signs more than 5,000 miles around the state "dousing the flames of corruption in the court system."

In 2003, she drove a hearse covered in slogans and children's toys to the Million Dads March in Washington, D.C., mourning the "death of fatherhood" due to the courts' handling of divorce law.

Johnson became well known in the Merrimack Valley and among fatherhood rights activists for her successful defense of Brian Meuse of Haverhill, who was accused of kidnapping his daughter from her mother, who had temporary custody and had taken the child to Florida. Meuse was found not guilty by an all-male jury in May 2002 after Johnson argued he had no choice but to take the 14-month-old girl because the mother was not getting her the medical care she needed.

Johnson claimed her activism in the gubernatorial campaign and on the Internet has put the state courts on the defensive.

"This all has to do with my Web site," she said, referring to, which offers, among several things, running "Bar Wars" commentary on her legal struggles, records of her criminal and family court cases, legal advice to parents accused of sexual abuse, and an online store - Forever Fascinating - selling T-shirts, mugs, and a "sexually explicit" screenplay.

Johnson said the Web site, which she started in 1998, registered 850,000 hits last year. "That's 2,500 per day," she said. "And, when you think, it's this short, fat, little old lady living in a very dirty house.

"They want to shut me up, but they won't be able to," said the grandmother of five, while sitting in her "cockpit" - a desk stacked high with two computers, a television, and legal paperwork far over her head.

Johnson said she may even weigh into this year's gubernatorial race with a radio ad, but she said she lacks the money to compete in the present "war of the multimillionaires." She has no regrets, though, about spending her retirement money on her last campaign.

"You can't take it with you. I never saw a hearse with a luggage rack," she said.

Source: North Andover Eagle-Tribune