Hon. Michael Johnson (Ret.)

Profile

Judge Johnson brings a 41 year legal career to his dispute resolution practice – 20 years as a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, and 21 years as a civil litigator specializing in employment law and business litigation.

In his judicial career, Judge Johnson was a popular member of the bench, known for his diligence and productivity. He presided over a downtown independent calendar court, where he conducted trials, motions, pretrial proceedings, and settlement conferences in a wide variety of civil matters, including employment, business litigation, civil rights, real estate, and personal injury. Earlier in his career, Judge Johnson presided over criminal felony trials, including high profile complex trials at the downtown criminal courts building. In total, he presided over more than 400 civil and criminal trials – providing a valuable perspective for dispute resolution. Judge Johnson culminated his judicial career in 2017 with an appointment as a Justice Pro Tem of the California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate District.

In his career as an attorney, Judge Johnson was a partner in a major national law firm. He engaged in trial and appellate work in state and federal courts across the country, focusing on employment law, business litigation, and civil rights. Judge Johnson held leadership and management positions in his law firm, served as Chair of the State Bar Labor & Employment Section, and was twice appointed by the Governor to the California Fair Employment & Housing Commission.

JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE

Civil Experience, 2010-2018.

  • Civil Independent Calendar Court at the Stanley Mosk Civil Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles. Managed a docket of approximately 450 civil cases from filing through trial or disposition, in the areas of business, employment, contract, real estate, personal injury, and other civil disputes.
  • Duties included a daily motion calendar, jury trials, court trials, case management, and settlement conferences. Participated in the court’s settlement programs for employment, business, and personal injury cases.

Appellate Experience, 2017.

  • Appointed as a Justice Pro Tem of the California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate District, March through July 2017. Served as a member of Division 3, hearing appeals from the Superior Court in civil, criminal, dependency and family law cases.
  • Authored 26 opinions and participated in 43 additional appeals with opinions authored by others.

Criminal Experience, 1997-2010.

  • Complex felony trial court at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Downtown Los Angeles. Managed a docket of selected complex felony cases through trial or disposition involving major crimes, multi-defendant cases, death penalty cases, white collar crimes, and gang crimes.
  • Criminal calendar court and felony trials at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center and Compton Courthouse. Managed a docket of cases through pre-trial proceedings and conducted assigned trials involving all manner of felony crimes.

GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE

Member of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission, 1987-1991, 1995-1997.

  • Member of a quasi-judicial board that decided employment and housing discrimination claims, adopted civil rights regulations and policies, and conducted civil rights hearings.
  • Attended monthly public hearings, participated in joint decisions and authored separate opinions in appeals, and contributed to the preparation and approval of administrative regulations.

LEGAL EXPERIENCE

Baker & Hostetler, Los Angeles. National law firm of over 500 attorneys.

  • General Partner, 1990-1997.
  • Chair of the Los Angeles Labor & Employment group; member of the Executive Committee.

McCutchen Black Verleger & Shea, Los Angeles. California-based law firm of approximately 75 attorneys.

  • General Partner, 1984-1990. Associate, 1976-1984.
  • Chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment group; member of the Executive Committee; Partner in charge of attorney hiring.

EDUCATION

University of California, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco.

  • Juris Doctor; Honors Graduate; U.C. Towne Scholarship.

University of California, Los Angeles.

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science; Phi Beta Kappa; Magna Cum Laude Graduate.

SPECIAL TRAINING

  • 42 hours of mediation training, Straus Institute at Pepperdine, Mediating the Litigated Case, 2018.
  • Advanced training in ESI discovery by eDiscovery Education Center, 2017. Certified as an eDiscovery advanced specialist.
  • 30 hours of mediation training, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Civic Mediation Project, 2015.

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS & ACTIVITIES

Judicial Associations

  • California Judges Association; Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Association

California State Bar, Labor & Employment Section

  • Chair, 1995-1996. Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Executive Committee Member

Other Bar Memberships & Activities

  • Admitted to practice in all California state courts; all U.S. District Courts of California; U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th and 3rd Circuits; U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Member of the California State Bar, and Los Angeles County Bar Association. Participated in various sections and committees.

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

Constitutional Rights Foundation

  • Mock Trial Competition Judge for high school students in Southern California, 1997-Present. Selected as Judge of the Year in 2006.

Woodrow Wilson High School

  • As an attorney, established a partnership program between Baker & Hostetler and this East Los Angeles high school. Received the American Bar Association Partnership Award.

Representative Cases

Cannabis Disputes

  • Several disputes between cities and cannabis dispensaries concerning the appropriate location of dispensaries under zoning laws.
  • Dispute between competing cannabis dispensaries regarding their entitlement to operate. Zoning regulations limited the location and distance between dispensaries, and the issue was which dispensary had priority over the other.
  • Several lease disputes between landlords and cannabis dispensaries. Leases prohibited illegal activities by a tenant, and the question was whether the dispensary was operating in a legal manner.
  • Dispute between financial institution holding a deed of trust for property occupied by a cannabis dispensary. The question was whether the dispensary was operating in a legal manner or in violation of the deed of trust.

Civil Rights, Official Misconduct

  • Claims for violation of federal civil rights laws (42 USC §1983) against various government entities and employees.
  • Claims for violation of state civil rights laws (Unruh Act, Ralph Act & Bane Act) against various public and private defendants.
  • Excessive force claims against a police department, involving officer conduct following a high speed vehicle pursuit.
  • FEHA claims for housing discrimination on various grounds, asserted against a variety of property owners and property management companies.
  • Claims against school districts for violation of students’ civil rights under state and federal law.
  • Quo warranto claim for removal of a city official for misconduct in office.
  • Qui tam action by an insurance company against healthcare businesses involved in worker’s compensation fraud.
  • Claims for invasion of privacy, unauthorized disclosure of personal information, discrimination, and federal civil rights violations by a public employee.
  • Claims under federal and state law for failure to provide proper medical care to county jail inmates.
  • Claim against a public prosecutor for malicious and discriminatory prosecution.
  • Various ADA and disability access claims against private businesses.

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Commercial Contract, General Business, Partnership Dissolution

  • Dispute among shareholders of an extended family-owned corporation. Derivative claims and cross-claims by both parties, and petition for appointment of a provisional director.
  • Claim by law firm for recovery of legal fees. Defenses and cross-claims by client for overbilling, improper services, and misconduct by attorneys.
  • Cross claims by two investors in business, one providing capital and the other providing expertise and product development. Claims included breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion.
  • Dispute between private boarding school and parents of expelled student. Claims for breach of contract, bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and related theories.
  • Dispute between business owners involving claims for breach of an LLC agreement, breach of fiduciary duties, fraud, and dissolution of the LLC.
  • Dispute between investors in real estate developments involving claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud.
  • Dispute over fees owed to an agent under an artist management agreement.
  • Allegations of misappropriation of likeness, invasion of privacy and similar claims by a plaintiff who believed that his image had been improperly used in a popular video game.
  • Dispute between a closely held corporation and a key employee, alleging breach of an agreement to pay stock dividends and bonuses.
  • Dispute between a law firm and a former partner over amounts owed under the partnership agreement upon dissociation from the firm.
  • Dispute between LLC members concerning amounts owed upon dissolution of the LLC.
  • Claim that a physician’s hospital privileges were terminated in retaliation for complaints about patient safety, raising issues under Health & Safety Code § 1278.5, Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, and other statutes.
  • Dispute between a consultant, a bank, and a property owner concerning an inspection and consultation agreement for rehabilitation of property.
  • Claim for breach of contract by a marketing firm that acquired corporate sponsors for a major sports event.
  • Breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud claims arising from a joint venture real estate development agreement and related loans.
  • Claim for recovery of past and future royalties under a performing artist’s recording contract.
  • Breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and related claims among members of a venture capital LLC.
  • Contract and loan disputes among members of a limited liability company involved in the operation of adult day health care centers.
  • Claims for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty by a plaintiff who claimed that defendants misled him into purchasing forged artwork.
  • Claim alleging breach of a partnership separation agreement in a wholesale food business.
  • Breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and related claims among members of a medical partnership.
  • Claims for fraudulent concealment and fraudulent transfers of assets to frustrate collection of a judgment.
  • Claims for breach of a joint venture agreement for development of an industrial park in the People’s Republic of China.
  • Breach of contract, fraud and related claims against a religious and educational institution.
  • Dispute over amounts owed under a gas supply contract, raising issues of contract interpretation and joint corporate and alter ego liability.
  • Consumer action under Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 and 17500, claiming deceptive advertisements for food products.
  • Claims under the Uniform Voidable Transfers Act, alleging fraudulent transfers of real and personal property to avoid payment of a civil judgment.
  • Unfair business practices, fraud and similar claims against a travel agency that marketed discount travel services.
  • Claims by consumers against a holder in due course of automobile installment sales contracts.
  • Claims for interference with contract and prospective business advantage by a business entity that attempted to purchase restaurants.
  • Dispute between individuals operating a non-profit corporation engaged in the performing arts.
  • Dispute over a physician’s stock purchase agreement in a medical practice.
  • Claim for recovery of legal fees by a law firm acting as local counsel for an out of state law firm and client.
  • Dispute involving breach of contract and related claims between manufacturers and distributors of various products – consumer electronics, power tools, and housewares.
  • Claims for fraud, quiet title, cancellation of instrument, unjust enrichment and declaratory relief against a real estate broker and an agent.
  • Claims for fraud and promissory estoppel by an employee who contended that a company owner promised him an ownership interest in his business.
  • Unfair competition and misrepresentation claims by commercial tenants against a shopping center.
  • Action for breach of warranty and equitable indemnity by a business that purchased computer chips manufactured by the defendant; the plaintiff claimed losses resulting from patent infringement claims against the defendant’s chips.
  • Claims for misrepresentation, concealment and rescission, and cross-claims for breach of contract and misrepresentation; all arising from construction, partnership and operating agreements for a night club.
  • Breach of contract and breach of warranty claims concerning clothing manufactured for a clothing distributor.
  • Claims for intentional and negligent misrepresentation against an insurance broker, based on misleading descriptions of worker’s compensation insurance premiums.

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Discovery Reference

  • As a Superior Court Judge in an Individual Calendar Court, Judge Johnson heard hundreds of discovery motions and disputes concerning all manner of discovery issues. Each was addressed in a detailed written ruling.
  • As a Superior Court Judge in an Individual Calendar Court, Judge Johnson participated in informal telephone conferences that addressed immediate issues, such as disputes during depositions or property inspections, or that attempted to resolve or narrow discovery disputes before a motion was filed.
  • Judge Johnson has experience with, and has completed training in, discovery of electronically stored information (ESI discovery).

Employment

  • Action by former city manager against city, claiming breach of contract and negligence in payment of PERS retirement contributions, resulting in reduction of city manager’s retirement benefits.
  • Sexual harassment action by nurse against a medical center and a physician who practiced at the center.
  • Disability discrimination and retaliation claims by manager of a medical office.
  • Claims by agency operators for a car rental chain. Plaintiffs asserted employee status, misclassification, and entitlement to overtime and other employment benefits.
  • FEHA and Title VII claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and related claims against a variety of private employers – retail sales, restaurants, manufacturing, insurance, construction, property management, aviation, clothing design and distribution, healthcare, and maritime.
  • FEHA and Title VII claims for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and related claims against a variety of public employers – counties, cities, municipal utilities, school districts, law enforcement, and public hospitals.
  • Disputes concerning trade secrets and covenants not to compete, in the context of employment termination and competition by former employees and executives.
  • Disability discrimination claim against Los Angeles County, raising issues concerning the effect of rulings by the Civil Service Commission.
  • Constructive discharge and retaliation claims by a community college employee, raising issues under the faculty collective bargaining agreement and the college regulations.
  • Sexual harassment claims by a former employee, with a cross-claim for defamation by a company manager.
  • Breach of contract claims arising from an agreement that settled an action for sexual harassment and employment discrimination, including non-disclosure provisions.
  • Breach of contract claims concerning retirement contribution provisions of a settlement agreement between a community college and a former professor.
  • Sexual harassment claims against a gay supervisor and his employer.
  • Violation of Lab. Code § 970, based on a plaintiff’s claim that he relocated because of misrepresentations about the terms and conditions of his employment.
  • Claim for unpaid compensation and benefits by a former in-house attorney.
  • Police officer’s claim for disability and medical condition discrimination.
  • School teacher’s claims for race discrimination and wrongful termination of employment against a public school district.

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Legal Malpractice

  • Legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims arising from divorce and marital property settlement proceedings. Cross-claim by defendant for recovery of unpaid attorney fees.
  • Dispute involving attorneys’ claims for recovery of legal fees. The client defendant’s defenses and cross-claims were based on legal malpractice and fraud.
  • Legal malpractice claim arising from an attorney’s preparation of a client’s estate plan.
  • Legal malpractice claim arising from an attorney’s representation of a client in a personal injury action.
  • Claims for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty against an attorney who represented a plaintiff in marital dissolution proceedings; cross-claim for recovery of the attorney’s legal fees.
  • Legal malpractice claim arising from an attorney’s representation of a client in medical malpractice litigation.
  • Legal malpractice claim arising from an attorney’s representation of a client in a contractual arbitration and subsequent court proceedings to confirm and enforce the arbitration award.
  • Legal malpractice claim against an attorney who represented the plaintiff in a criminal action.

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Personal Injury, Torts, Elder Abuse

  • Claims for financial elder abuse, quiet title, and cancellation of deeds arising from a series of real estate transactions.
  • Claims for elder abuse based on neglect, physical abuse, and medical malpractice, against physicians, nursing homes and hospitals.
  • Personal injury claims arising from a multi-vehicle collision with a commercial truck and a mass transit bus.
  • Personal injury and wrongful death claims arising from the plaintiff’s exposure to asbestos and secondary exposure to the plaintiff’s family members.
  • Wrongful death action by the families of university students killed in a criminal attack, alleging failure of the university’s security measures.
  • Personal injury actions by plaintiffs injured at a construction site.
  • Personal injury claim by an employee against an employer who did not have worker’s compensation insurance; principal issues were whether the injuries were incurred in the course of employment, and the nature and extent of the injuries.
  • Claim by a patient who suffered serious personal injuries from a collision with the medical transport vehicle in which he was riding.
  • Defamation claim based upon internet postings.
  • Claims of assault, battery and negligent injury against a retail security guard and his employer.

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Real Estate

  • Landlord tenant commercial dispute. Tenant claimed landlord refused in bad faith to approve assignment/sublet to purchaser of tenant’s store, resulting in lost sale and damage to business.
  • Estate sued to cancel deed and return property, claiming fraud and forgery, with related claims for loss of property income and damages. Cross-claim by purchaser for bona fide purchaser and cost of improvements. Cross-claim by lender for bona fide encumbrancer and fraud against purchaser.

Real Property

  • Boundary dispute between residential property owners, involving fence location, drainage easement, access easement, and similar issues.
  • Claims for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract by a property owner against a licensed real estate agent.
  • Dispute between owners of two large apartment complexes concerning an access easement, vehicular right of way, and extensive construction on disputed land.
  • Dispute among family members over title to real property and contributions to improvements.
  • Tenant claims for failure to repair and breach of habitability.
  • Claims for fraud, constructive fraud, and unjust enrichment among investors in commercial property.
  • Border dispute between owners of adjacent apartment complexes, involving claims and cross-claims for trespass, encroachment, nuisance, violation of reciprocal covenants, removal of lateral and adjacent support, and declaratory relief.
  • Inverse condemnation claims by commercial property owners against an electric utility, concerning damage resulting from an electrical fire and resulting smoke and gas.
  • Claims for cancellation of instruments and quiet title based upon fraud and forgery; cross-claims for collection on a promissory note.
  • Dispute between domestic partners concerning their ownership rights in real and personal property.
  • Zoning dispute concerning the location of a medical marijuana dispensary.
  • City’s claims against a property owner for zoning violations connected with property improvements.
  • Breach of contract claims arising from consulting and construction contracts for remediation of mold and similar infestations.
  • Action for inverse condemnation brought by a group of homeowners, claiming impairment of views caused by city trees.

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Wage & Hour

  • Multiple cases involving wage and hour claims (misclassification, minimum wage, overtime, rest periods and meal breaks) against a variety of employers – restaurants, security companies, manufacturers, personal services, construction, home care health services, car rental, car repair and service, and household services.
  • Multiple cases involving PAGA wage and hour claims against a variety of employers.
  • Class action by managers and assistant managers against a property and rental management company, claiming misclassification and failure to pay minimum wage and overtime and failure to provide rest periods and meal breaks.
  • Class action by assistant managers against a chain of retail bookstores, claiming misclassification, failure to pay overtime, and failure to provide rest periods and meal breaks.
  • Class action by insurance company customer service representatives, claiming the company’s log in and log out procedures deprived them of pay and overtime.