A while back we wondered where the Judge Frank Johnsons had gone.
Governor Wallace wanted to deny the petitioners the right to march based on “public safety”. How many of our “balls and strikes” Judges who have been appointed and elevated by pledging over and over again that they will not legislate from the bench would have the courage to take on a Governor in the deep south on an issue like this?
Remember this was Alabama in the 1960’s. A cross was burned on Judge Johnson’s lawn and his mother’s house was bombed. In 1961 Johnson found that both the Ku Klux Klan and the Montgomery police department were beating and harassing Freedom Riders who were attempting to integrate bus travel in the south.
Johnson had protection by the federal marshal’s service for twenty years. He was ostracized in his community and by many of his colleagues. Like Churchill as a back-bencher in the 1930’s, in many ways Judge Frank Johnson stood alone in Alabama.
In 1961 in Gomillion v. Lightfoot Judge Johnson struck down Alabama’s attempt to redistrict voting districts in a way to disenfranchise black voters. Judge’s stopping illegal redistricting? That’s a popular topic these days.
In 1963 in Lee v. Macon County Board of Ed, all Judge Johnson did was desegregate public schools in Alabama. Just callin balls and strikes, yup. No legislating from the bench here. Can’t have a judge do that y’all.
In 1966 in White v. Cook Judge Johnson held that Alabama must permit both black male and females to serve on juries.
In 1966 in United States v. Alabama, Judge Johnson declared the poll tax in Alabama unconstitutional.
In 1969 in Weeks v. Southern Bell Judge Johnson held that women had a statutory right to choose, for themselves, whether to work in physically demanding jobs that were historically performed by men.
In 1970 he ordered the Montgomery YMCA desegregated.
In 1971 in Wyatt v. Stickney he held that people with mental illness who had been involuntarily committed had a right to treatment for their illness. We guess Judge Johnson didn’t get the Miami-Dade Memo about judges not ordering jails to treat inmates.
President Clinton awarded Judge Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Federal District Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama is named in his honor.
We live in a time when executives are appointing judges who are falling all over themselves pledging to not consider right and wrong. These Judges are desperate to prove that whatever the legislature says, they will do. In other words, they will just follow orders. Children are held in cages because the executive has the power over the borders. No soap or toothbrushes for them, because the law doesn’t require it. And Judges are just fine with it because we don’t have many Frank Johnsons anymore.
Although the dim light of oppression has darkened our land, there are lights and we have hope. Sometimes that light comes from a soul who touched the world around him and made it better. There aren’t many Frank Johnsons on the bench these days, but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way.