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Attorneys of the Year: Tom Johnson

circle-excellence-genericAppointed last year by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as volunteer ombudsman for clergy abuse victims, Tom Johnson has been getting an earful.

More than 20 victims have reached out to Johnson to tell him their stories. His role is more as a listener than dispenser of advice. “They want some acknowledgement that what happened to them was wrong and that they were not in any way to blame,” he said. “Most are looking for ways to get restarted. I’m there to hear their stories and provide whatever help is appropriate.”

Johnson, principal at Gray Plant Mooty, served on the Minneapolis City Council in the 1970s and as Hennepin County Attorney from 1979 to 1991. In 1989 he founded CornerHouse, a nationally acclaimed “children’s advocacy center” that offers services to children who suffered sexual abuse. The center has trained more than 33,000 individuals, including investigators from the International Criminal Court at the Hague, in how to interview child sexual abuse victims. Johnson headed up the Council on Crime and Justice from 1998 to 2007. He also founded the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and received its first Customer Service Award.

mn-aoty19-final-4-45-copyIn December 2018 Johnson wrote an editorial with Tim O’Malley, the archdiocese director of ministerial standards and safe environment, that condemned the archdiocese handling of allegations against former Archbishop John Nienstedt. “What people should learn is that whether you’re a priest, a bishop or an archbishop you’re going to be held accountable for your actions,” Johnson said. “No one gets a free ride.”

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