On June 1, 2017, Herman N. ("Rusty") Johnson, Jr. took the bench as a magistrate judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. He was selected by the Court's district judges from applicants recommended for the position by the Merit Selection Panel.
"We were fortunate to have many highly qualified lawyers apply for this position," said Chief Judge Karon Bowdre. "Rusty Johnson impressed us as having all of the attributes needed to be an outstanding judge: integrity, even temperament, strong intellect and work ethic, and impartiality. We are confident he will be an outstanding addition to our Court."
"My primary goal is to ensure that I dispense justice according to our conception of the rules of law under the constitution and under the rules Congress has passed," Magistrate Judge Johnson said.
Prior to his appointment, Magistrate Judge Johnson was a tenured Associate Professor at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. During his seven-year career at Cumberland, Magistrate Judge Johnson taught courses in civil procedure, civil rights, comparative counterterrorism law, comparative procedure, complex litigation, federal courts, employment law, equitable remedies, evidence, human rights, and comparative constitutional law. He received the 2012 Harvey S. Jackson Excellence in Teaching Award for Upper Level Courses, the 2013 Lightfoot, Franklin & White Junior Faculty Scholarship Award, and, in three academic years, Spirit of Service Awards. He has published articles in leading law school and practice journals, including Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review, Columbia Journal of Race and Law, and Cumberland Law Review.
"Needless to say, those of us in the Cumberland community will greatly miss him as a colleague on the Cumberland faculty," Cumberland School of Law Professor John L. Carroll stated. Professor Carroll, a former United States Magistrate Judge, added, "He was the consummate scholar and teacher, a person who was revered and loved by the students and his fellow faculty members."
Before a career in academia, Magistrate Judge Johnson was an Associate Attorney and then Member in the Birmingham law office of Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher & Goldfarb, LLC from 2001 to 2009. He litigated cases involving employment discrimination, wage-and-hour violations, employment issues, and international human rights.
Magistrate Judge Johnson clerked for the Honorable Martha Craig Daughtrey on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and for the Honorable Myron H. Thompson on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
Magistrate Judge Johnson earned a B.A. in Economics from Duke University in 1991, where he was presented the B. N. Duke Leadership Award. In 1999, he earned an M.A. from the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs and a J.D. from Columbia University Law School. At Columbia, he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, an Earl Warren Scholar, a Human Rights Fellow, a Mitsubishi Minority Fellow, a Ford Foundation Fellow, and a Peace Corp Fellow. He was on the staff of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and received a Foreign Language Areas Scholarship.
Magistrate Judge Johnson's extensive dedication to public service began even prior to his graduation from Columbia University. He was a Thurgood Marshall Fellow for the Association of the Bar for the City of New York, where he administered a legal clinic for the homeless; a Human Rights Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights in Greenville, Mississippi; an Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama Human Rights Fellow in Montgomery, Alabama; a Ford Foundation Fellow in South Africa at the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes; an AmeriCorps team leader in Charleston, South Carolina; and he served in the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa.
Past Alabama State Bar President Richard Raleigh, who served as the Chair of the Merit Selection Panel, stated, "Judge Johnson's background, serving as a law clerk at both the federal district court and federal circuit court level, his history of selfless service, working with the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, his work in private practice representing civil litigants, and his experience gained teaching while an Associate Professor at Cumberland School of Law, make Judge Johnson uniquely suited to help lawyers and their clients as they resolve legal problems in cases in the Northern District of Alabama."
Magistrate Judge Johnson's office is in Huntsville's federal courthouse. He replaces Magistrate Judge Harwell G. Davis, III, who retired from the bench. Magistrate Judge Johnson is a native of Blackville, South Carolina.