Levin College of Law

E. Lea Johnston

University of Florida Research Foundation Professor 2020-2023
Professor of Law


Criminal Law  • Criminal Procedure  • Mental Health  • 


Lea Johnston is a leading expert in the areas of mental health and criminal law and procedure. A productive scholar, her work has appeared in top journals, including the Boston College Law Review, the Washington University Law Review, the Notre Dame Law Review, the UC Davis Law Review, the Fordham Law Review, the Georgia Law Review, and the Florida Law Review, among others. Her work has been widely cited by legal scholars and appears in leading treatises in criminal law, constitutional law, and criminal procedure. Her work has also received attention from social scientists, and her theory of sentencing forms part of the theoretical framework for the standard textbook for forensic psychiatry fellowship programs.

In 2020, Johnston was elected into the American Law Institute. A past Chair of the Law and Mental Disability Section, Johnston currently serves as Chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Association of Law Schools. She has also served on the Legal Scholars Committee of the American Psychology-Law Society.

Professor Johnston earned her A.B. from Princeton University and her J.D. (cum laude) from Harvard Law School. She previously served as a litigation associate at Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, D.C., and director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group in Baltimore, MD. Johnston clerked for Judge Richard Tallman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Johnston is currently a University of Florida Research Foundation Professor and Assistant Director of the Criminal Justice Center.


A.B., Princeton University
J.D. (cum laude), Harvard Law School


Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Mental Health Law


  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure: Adversary System
  • Mental Health Law



  • Psychosis, Heat of Passion, and Diminished Responsibility, 63 B.C. L.R. __ (forthcoming, Apr. 2022) (with Vincent T. Leahey)
  • Delusions, Moral Incapacity, and the Case for Moral Wrongfulness, 97 Ind. L.J. __ (forthcoming, Dec. 2021)
  • The Status and Legitimacy of M’Naghten’s Insane Delusion Rule, 54 UC Davis L. Rev. 1777 (2021) (co-authored with Vince Leahey)
  • Reconceptualizing Criminal Justice Reform for Offenders with Serious Mental Illness, 71 Fla. L. Rev. 515 (2019) [SSRN]
  • Legal and Clinical Issues Regarding the Pro Se defendant: Guidance for Practitioners and Policy Makers, 25 Psych., Pub. Pol. & L. 196 (2019) (co-authored with Christina L. Patton, Colleen M. Lillard, and Michael J. Viacco) [SSRN]
  • Retributive Theories Justifying Jail Diversion for Offenders with Mental Illness, 35 Behav. Sci. & L. 1 (2017) [SSRN]
  • Mental Health Courts and Sentencing Disparities, 62 Villanova L. R. 685 (2017) (coauthored with Conor Flynn) [SSRN]
  • Communication and Competence for Self-Representation, 84 Fordham L. R. 2121 (2016). [SSRN]
  • Modifying Unjust Sentences, 49 Ga. L. Rev. 433 (2015) [SSRN]
  • Smoke and Mirrors: Model Penal Code § 305.7 and Compassionate Release, 4 Wake Forest J. L. & Pol’y 49 (2014) [SSRN]
  • Conditions of Confinement at Sentencing: The Case of Seriously Disordered Offenders, 63 Cath. U. L. Rev. 625 (2014) [SSRN]
  • Vulnerability and Desert: A Theory of Sentencing and Mental Illness, 103 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 147 (2013) [SSRN]
  • Theorizing Mental Health Courts, 89 Wash. U. L. Rev. 519 (2012) [SSRN]
  • Representational Competence: Defining the Limits of the Right to Self-Representation at Trial, 86 Notre Dame L. Rev. 523 (2011) [SSRN]
  • Setting the Standard: A Critique of Bonnie’s Competency Standard and the Potential of Problem-Solving Theory for Self-Representation at Trial, 43 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1605 (2010) [SSRN]
  • An Administrative ‘Death Sentence’ for Asylum Seekers: Deprivation of Due Process Under 8 U.S.C. §1158(D)(6)’s Frivolousness Standard [SSRN]