James Johnson

Johnson, 57, is an attorney who has worked on social justice causes and served as an undersecretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration.

He grew up in Montclair and lives there today. Johnson’s father was a Marine veteran and small businessman and his mother was a high school teacher, and later college professor. Johnson attended Harvard, paying for it with part-time jobs, student loans, and the help of his family, and earned his undergraduate and law degrees there.

After graduating, Johnson served as the federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. He then worked in the Treasury department between 1998 and 2001. When he left, at the end of President Bill Clinton’s second term, he was serving as Undersecretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, where he oversaw the Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Customs Service.

In the post-Clinton years Johnson re-entered private law practice and often advised companies on meeting strict justice department policies. In 2009 he was appointed by a federal judge to oversee an affordable housing conflict in Westchester County, New York.

Johnson led the Brennan Center for Justice (at New York University School of Law) — which works on such issues as protecting the right to vote, assisting families facing foreclosure, and reducing the rate of crime and incarceration — for seven years. He also spent two years as head of New Jersey’s Advisory Committee on Police Standards, which worked to eliminate racial bias in the State Police.

Within the last two years, he helped form New Jersey Communities Forward, a project of the NJ Institute for Social Justice, which has focused on issues of police accountability. The organization fought for policies on body cameras, bias training, and independent reviews of shootings.

Johnson is married with four children.

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