Vermont Bar Journal
Justice Denise Joiinsoii: Long-Time Advocate for Access to Justice
THE VERMONT BAR JOURNALVolume 37, No. 2Summer 2011Justice Denise Joiinsoii: Long-Time Advocate for Access to Justiceby Sophie E. Zdatny, Esq.Access to the judicial system for poor people has been a defining issue in Justice Johnson's legal career. Even before attending law school, Justice Johnson perceived the law as an important tool for change, recognizing that for change to occur people from all walks of life, including the poor, minorities, and immigrants, need lawyers and access to the legal system. Following her graduation from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1974, Justice Johnson worked for the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc., for four years. After moving to Vermont, she worked for a year as a legal writing instructor at Vermont Law School, before joining the Attorney General's office where her interest in public policy continued. She served as an Assistant Attorney General and Chief of the Public Protection Division from 1980 to 1988. After a short stint in private practice, during which time Justice Johnson served as Chair of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, Governor Madeline Kunin tapped Justice Johnson to become the first female justice on the Vermont Supreme Court. Justice Johnson joined the bench in December 1990 and now, almost twenty-one years later, prepares to retire.
Throughout her tenure on the Vermont Supreme Court, Justice Johnson's commitment to the ideals of access to justice for all has remained strong. Justice Johnson first served on the Board of Directors of the Vermont Bar Foundation from 1991-1996 and re-joined the Board in 2008. In 2002, Justice Johnson put together a committee on Equal Access to Legal Services, which hired a marketing firm to conduct a legal needs study. The study identified legal needs that were going unmet in the state of Vermont and prioritized those needs, leading to the creation of the Access to Justice Coalition.
The Access to Justice Coalition is comprised of a group of dedicated stakeholders, including the Vermont Supreme Court, the Vermont Bar Association, the Vermont Bar Foundation, and Vermont's major civil legal service...