Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Edward Johnstone,

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Introduction and childhood education

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Partial Transcript: This is an unrehearsed oral history interview with Judge Edward Johnstone

Segment Synopsis: Judge Edward Johnstone gives a detailed account of his education and childhood experiences.

Keywords: Berea (Ky.); Bowling Green (Ky.); Law Schools; Lexington (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.); McCracken County (Ky.); Owingsville (Ky.); Paducah (Ky.); Princeton (Ky.); São Paulo (Brazil); Taylor County; Taylor County (Ky.); University of Kentucky; WW1; WW2; WWI; WWII; World War 1; World War 2; World War I; World War II; World War One; World War Two

00:10:19 - College and enlistment

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Partial Transcript: Did you go to, did you go to college immediately after...

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about his collegiate education, and how his enlistment in World War II delayed his entry into law school. He also talks about his combat experience in the Battle of the Bulge and expresses his desire for future generations to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

Keywords: Battle of the Bulge; Enlisted Reserve Corps; Enlistment; Law schools; Margaret I. King Library; Recruiting and enlistment; WW2; WWII; World War 2; World War II

00:19:06 - Law school

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Partial Transcript: Law school was difficult then as it is now.

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone gives his account of law school life and some of the members of his cohort.

Keywords: Breathitt, Edward T., 1924-2003; Cohorts; Law schools; Law students; Professors; University of Kentucky. College of Law; Veterans

GPS: University of Kentucky College of Law, Lexington, Ky.
Map Coordinates: 38.037, -84.507
00:22:03 - On starting his own firm

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Partial Transcript: So I opened my own office.

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone discusses his process of finding a place to open a practice by himself, and how he settled on Princeton, Kentucky.

Keywords: Ed Prichard; Law offices; Lawyers; Marion (Ky.); Prichard, E. F. (Edward Fretwell); Princeton (Ky.); Russelville (Ky.); Self-employment

GPS: Caldwell County (Ky.) courthouse
Map Coordinates: 37.109, -87.882
00:27:17 - Learning the practice of law

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Partial Transcript: (laughs) From a practical standpoint, how did you, how did you learn how to practice law?

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about the people who helped him establish a law practice and taught how to be a lawyer. He mentions Circuit Court Clerk Leona Trader, who appointed him as a "warning order attorney", as well as attorney Charles Pepper, who mentored him.

Keywords: Charles Pepper; Law offices; Lawyers; Leona Trader; Princeton (Ky.); Private practice; Self-employment; Trial lawyers; Vinson, Fred M., 1890-1953; Warning order attorneys

GPS: Caldwell County (Ky.) courthouse
Map Coordinates: 37.109, -87.882
00:34:17 - Recounting early cases

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Partial Transcript: To go back and select a particular case is difficult--

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about his experiences working cases with Charles Pepper early in his career. He compares the way law is handled today versus when he began practicing.

Keywords: Charles Pepper; Court of appeals; Criminal law; Juries; Mike Mills; Murder trials; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:43:42 - Law in a rural county

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Partial Transcript: I learned constitutional law in the courtroom.

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about the nature of his clientele in a rural county. He also discusses the ways in which he spread his name in a rural community.

Keywords: Circuit judges; Constitutional law; Episcopalians; Fishing; Golfing; Local politics; Rural; Trial lawyers; Wealth inequality; Western Kentucky

GPS: Caldwell County (Ky.) courthouse
Map Coordinates: 37.109, -87.882
00:48:05 - Running for circuit judge

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Partial Transcript: Why did you run?

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about his decision in 1976 to run to become a judge on the Kentucky Circuit Court of the Fifty-Sixth Judicial Circuit.

Keywords: 56th judicial circuit; Circuit judges; Judges; Judges--Selection and appointment; Judicial circuits; Lawyers; Princeton (Ky.)

00:50:32 - Becoming a federal judge

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Partial Transcript: How did you become a federal judge?

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about his path to a federal judgeship after only sixteen months as a state judge. He goes over the process of federal judicial appointments and his own experiences with it.

Keywords: Circuit judges; Federal judges; Ford, Wendell H., 1924-2015; Judges--Selection and appointment--United States; Selection committees; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: Paducah (Ky.) courthouse
Map Coordinates: 37.0844, -88.597
01:00:06 - Judges who inspired Judge Johnstone

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Partial Transcript: The perception versus the reality?

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone comments on the lack of difference between his perception of judging before taking the position compared to the reality. He explains that his understanding came from practicing law before many judges, and describes some of the judges that inspired him.

Keywords: Clifton Waddle; Court administration; James F. Gordon; Judicial administration--United States; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

01:04:08 - Differences between state and federal judges

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Partial Transcript: What are the differences in the authority of judges at those different levels, and how did it change?

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about the differences between state and federal judges, and remarks that, in his perception, they have become more similar over time.

Keywords: Constitutional law; Domestic trials; Federal judges; Judges--Selection and appointment--United States; Judges--United States; Judicial administration--United States; State judges

01:09:41 - Jury selection and maintaining a courtroom

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Partial Transcript: Can you give us a feel for what the role of a judge is in jury selection?

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone gives his rationale behind the way he conducts his court, and the way he interacts with the jury. He also goes into detail about his views on the importance of every individual's case, and his belief that judges are servants of the people and need to behave as such.

Keywords: Conduct of court proceedings; Court proceedings; Courtroom decorum; Judicial administration--United States; Judicial procedure; Jurors; Jury selection; Public service; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Paducah (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.086556, -88.599777
01:13:35 - Thoughts on briefs and opinions

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Partial Transcript: When someone submits a brief to you...

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone discusses his thoughts on good and bad briefs from lawyers and opinions from judges. Johnstone shows a great appreciation for brevity in briefs and clarity in opinions.

Keywords: Briefs; Court filings; Editing; Judges--United States; Judicial opinions; Lawyers; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District); Writing

GPS: United States Courthouse, Paducah (Ky.)

Map Coordinates: 37.086556, -88.599777
01:16:24 - Process of writing opinions

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Partial Transcript: Depends on the opinion, some of them take months.

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about the process of writing judicial opinions, and the struggles of analyzing the quality of one's own work.

Keywords: Briefs; Judicial opinions; Law clerks; Research

01:19:05 - Writing instructions for jurors

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Partial Transcript: Hardest task a judge has I think.

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone talks about his methodology for writing the instructions for jurors, and how the state and federal traditions have fostered different approaches. He explains his admiration for the jury system used in the American judicial system.

Keywords: Judicial decisionmarking; Juries; Jurors; Jury deliberations; Jury instructions; Jury trials; Robert Lawson; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: United States Courthouse, Paducah (Ky.)


Map Coordinates: 37.086556, -88.599777
01:26:19 - Advice to young lawyers

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Partial Transcript: I don't know that I'd give a lot of advice to them.

Segment Synopsis: Johnstone advises new lawyers to practice law for the sake of helping people rather than the pursuit of billable hours.

Keywords: Billable hours; Fayette County (Ky.); Law; Law schools; Lawyers; Pro bono work; Public service