Personal injury attorney John S. Johnston of Kansas City, Mo., is no stranger to being called Mr. Prez. In 1998 he was president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association. In 2003, he took the top role at the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Foundation. And now he’s gone statewide.
“I am of course honored to be elected president [of the Missouri Bar],” Johnston, of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, told Super Lawyers. “It is, however, a bit daunting to be called upon to speak for the lawyers of Missouri on subjects of interest.” After all, he’s got 30,000 to answer for.
His top priority is to “continue to educate the citizens of Missouri on The Missouri Plan for merit selection of judges.” The judicial selection plan is meant to keep politics and special interests out of the process by combining appointment and election of state-level judges. (It dates back to 1940, and was subsequently adopted by 10 other states.) Johnston believes in the good faith of the system but understands not everyone agrees. “There have been recent attempts to repeal, or drastically change, our merit selection plan. I believe that if our citizens know how The Missouri Plan operates they will continue to support it.”
Johnston also wants to tackle the issue of case overload in the public criminal justice system. “This has led to the closing of public defenders’ offices, and resulting lawsuits,” he says. He notes that prosecutors and public defenders are working to address the issue, and “The Missouri Bar is supporting them in their efforts.”
Johnston is fired up about this new service opportunity. “I get to see all of the good that lawyers are doing for their communities and for the justice system. Being involved in activities with these lawyers reminds me why I went to law school.”