Ethics Explorer A Guide to the Financial Interests of Elected Officials

Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson (R)

Industry
State Government
Education
B.A., Texas Tech University; J.D., Texas Tech University School of Law
Spouse
Carla Jean
Financial Statements

Sources of Income

  • Before being appointed to the high court by Gov. Rick Perry in 2005, Johnson had been on the 7th Court of Appeals since 1998.

  • Previously, he was a partner at the Lubbock law firm Crenshaw, Dupree & Milam. He usually defended clients in cases concerning personal injury, workers' compensation, professional malpractice and automobile accidents.

  • He holds stock in Abbott Laboratories, Black Hills Corp., Buffalo Wild Wings, Costco Wholesale Corp., CTRIP International, DTE Energy Corp., Ebix, Inc., Hurco Companies Inc., Kimberly Clark Corp., Leggett & Platt Inc., National Presto Industries Inc., Panera Bread, Proctor & Gamble, Vasco Data Security International, Wells Fargo & Co., Zumiez, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson.

  • He also previously served in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot.

Property

  • He owns residential property in Lubbock that is appraised at $143,054.

Analysis

  • A 2008 study by the left-leaning money-in-politics group Texans for Public Justice found that between January 2007 and July 2008, 65 percent of Johnson’s campaign funds came from contributors who had had business before the court. Johnson said he had a process when he was up for re-election "by which we checked any contributions we recieved from anyone related to cases pending." He said he "returned some contributions and did not accept some contributions, half a dozen, or so. I just felt the appearance was not appropriate."

  • The Texas Supreme Court in 2007 issued an opinion in Entergy Gulf States v. John Summers protecting industrial plants and refineries from some types of liability claims by contract workers. The court ruled that a general contractor providing workers' compensation insurance to a subcontractor is protected from negligence claims that may be brought by a subcontractor’s injured employee. Energy and chemical companies, which stood to benefit from the decision, had donated $61,500 to Johnson’s campaigns from 2001 to 2006, according to a Texans for Public Justice review. Neither Summers nor his attorneys appear to have donated to Johnson's campaigns. In 2009, the Entergy decision was revised to be a 6-3 vote.

     

  • In 2011, Johnson and a majority of the court sided with pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., overturning a jury verdict and Court of Appeals decision in favor of the family of Leonel Garza, who died of a heart attack after taking Vioxx. Johnson had received $12,500 in campaign contributions between 2005 and 2009 from Baker Botts, the law firm representing Merck & Co. The Garza family and their attorneys were not found to have donated to any Supreme Court justices' campaigns. The decision favoring Merck was 7-0, with the justices determining that expert testimony from an epidemiologist was not sufficient to prove that taking Vioxx caused Garza's heart attack.

  • On the question of accepting campaign dollars from law firms, Johnson said, "There's no prohibition. If anyone ever had a question, they could move to recuse me and I would consider it, but I've never had one of those done."