- Barbara Johnson, the flamboyant Andover lawyer who fought for the
rights of fathers, campaigned for governor in an antique fire engine
and drove a hearse to Washington, D.C., to protest divorce laws, has
been barred from practicing law in Massachusetts.
Johnson, 71, who
also has been an acerbic critic of the Massachusetts court system, said
yesterday she'll fight her disbarment all the way to the U.S. Supreme
Yesterday, she called the process under which
disbarred a "kangaroo court," and compared the state to a Third World
country, but remained nonchalant about life after losing her license.
disbar me, which is fine. I'll write my judicial murder mysteries,"
Johnson said. "I'm going to kill off a judge in the prologue of every
one. It'll be like a Where's Waldo murder mystery, and I'll use real
names for the judges."
"I'm having so much fun," she said with a
grin, puffing one of her always-lit cigarettes and letting out the
gravelly laugh which became familiar during her 2002 independent
Johnson may have had too much fun,
though, bringing her contentious public persona into the courtroom and
bringing confidential legal matters into public light.
Francis Spina of the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled Aug. 16 in
favor of the disbarment recommendation by the Board of Bar Overseers
writing that "the judicial system and the public must be protected from
her repeated misconduct."
Johnson was disbarred for putting
sensitive confidential information from two of her cases on her Web
site, for refusing to pay legal fines after being held in contempt, and
for conducting herself in an "insulting, vituperative" manner in court,
among other charges.
"The respondent's misconduct has been
directed toward her clients, opposing parties, other counsel, judges
and other adjudicators, witnesses and innocent third parties," Spina
wrote. "She has made inflammatory and contemptuous statements both
verbally and in writing on her website. ... Her misconduct demonstrates
her outright refusal to conform her conduct to professional standards
and ethical requirements."
Johnson admits to her colorful
language and tenacious demeanor, but she dismissed the rest as the
corrupt Massachusetts justice system's "purely political" response to
its most vocal critic. She notes in particular that the charges came
down just three weeks after the 2002 gubernatorial election.
that race, Johnson spent $52,000 of her own money, petitioned herself
onto the ballot, and got herself on several televised debates with the
four other candidates, arguing a platform of father's rights, court
reform, and the abolition of judge immunity.
She also rode an
antique firetruck plastered with campaign signs more than 5,000 miles
around the state "dousing the flames of corruption in the court
In 2003, she drove a hearse covered in
children's toys to the Million Dads March in Washington, D.C., mourning
the "death of fatherhood" due to the courts' handling of divorce law.
became well known in the Merrimack Valley and among fatherhood rights
activists for her successful defense of Brian Meuse of Haverhill, who
was accused of kidnapping his daughter from her mother, who had
temporary custody and had taken the child to Florida. Meuse was found
not guilty by an all-male jury in May 2002 after Johnson argued he had
no choice but to take the 14-month-old girl because the mother was not
getting her the medical care she needed.
Johnson claimed her activism in the
and on the Internet has put the state courts on the defensive.
all has to do with my Web site," she said, referring to
www.falseallegations.com, which offers, among several things, running
"Bar Wars" commentary on her legal struggles, records of her criminal
and family court cases, legal advice to parents accused of sexual
abuse, and an online store - Forever Fascinating - selling T-shirts,
mugs, and a "sexually explicit" screenplay.
Johnson said the Web
site, which she started in 1998, registered 850,000 hits last year.
"That's 2,500 per day," she said. "And, when you think, it's this
short, fat, little old lady living in a very dirty house.
want to shut me up, but they won't be able to," said the grandmother of
five, while sitting in her "cockpit" - a desk stacked high with two
computers, a television, and legal paperwork far over her head.
said she may even weigh into this year's gubernatorial race with a
radio ad, but she said she lacks the money to compete in the present
"war of the multimillionaires." She has no regrets, though, about
spending her retirement money on her last campaign.
"You can't take it with you. I never saw a
luggage rack," she said.