Cliff Johnson joined the faculty in 2014 after being selected as the first Director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law. Professor Johnson oversees the Center’s litigation efforts and provides instruction and supervision to students participating in the MacArthur Justice Clinic.
Under Professor Johnson’s direction, the MacArthur Justice Center at UM Law has successfully litigated cases challenging practices such as the widespread use of illegal and excessive bail, the operation of “debtors’ prisons” throughout Mississippi, the denial of appointed counsel for indigent defendants, illegal sentencing of juvenile offenders, and the failure to provide inmates with decent prison conditions. He also is involved in a wide range of education and advocacy efforts addressing criminal justice reform in Mississippi. In 2016, Professor Johnson was recognized as a Public Justice National Trial Lawyer of the Year for his role on a legal team challenging bail abuses throughout the South.
Prior to joining the faculty, Professor Johnson practiced law in Mississippi for more than 20 years. After a federal clerkship and three years as an associate at the Jackson, Mississippi law firm of Butler Snow, Professor Johnson worked for five years as an Assistant United States Attorney during the Clinton administration. During his tenure with DOJ, he received the Inspector General’s Integrity Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Immediately prior to joining the law school faculty, he was a partner for 13 years at the Jackson law firm of Pigott & Johnson, where he handled a wide variety of complex civil and criminal matters. He has been selected as a Mid-South Super Lawyer and listed in Best Lawyers in America.
During 2005-2006, Professor Johnson was a Fulbright Scholar at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lund, Sweden. While in Sweden, he taught Law and History of the American Civil Rights Movement at the Institute and Lund University Law School. Professor Johnson also conducted research and lectured throughout Sweden on the political and social challenges resulting from Sweden’s immigration policy and integration efforts. Since 2006, Professor Johnson has lectured in Sweden on numerous occasions, including speeches at the Nobel Museum and Wallenberg Institute graduation ceremonies. He returns to Stockholm each year to serve as moderator of an international symposium for human rights lawyers from developing countries.
Professor Johnson received his B.A. in Political Science, with high honors and special distinction, from Mississippi College in 1989 and his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1992, where he was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow and a member of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.
Professor Johnson is member of the University of Mississippi’s Allies Program – a network of faculty and staff who visibly support students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The members of Allies also work to foster a campus climate in which all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, may feel safe, supported, respected, and affirmed.