E. Lea Johnston
University Term Professor
Professor of Law
Assistant Director, Criminal Justice Center
Lea Johnston is a leading expert on mental health and criminal law and procedure. A productive scholar, Johnston’s work has appeared in 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. In 2012, the California Supreme Court quoted Johnston’s proposed standard for representational competence and endorsed its use by courts and experts. 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.
Johnston is often consulted by media outlets, including recently by USA Today, the New Yorker, NBC News, and the Boston Globe. A past Chair of the Law and Mental Disability Section, Johnston currently serves as Chair-Elect 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 Term Professor of Law 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.
- Substantive law of crimes, including principles of punishment, elements of typical crimes, responsibility and defenses.
- Covers commencement of formal criminal proceedings; bail, the decision to prosecute, the grand jury, the preliminary hearing, venue, joinder and severance, and speedy trial.
- This course explores the relationship of psychiatry and the law and will cover governmental efforts to deprive the “mentally disabled” of liberty or property through the criminal, civil commitment, and guardianship systems. Key goals include learning when and how mental health experts may participate in the legal process, how to utilize these experts, and how effectively to respond to them. The course will begin with an attempt to define “mental disability” as that term is used for legal purposes.
- Squaring Delusions with Insanity, __UC Davis L. Rev.__ (forthcoming 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]