Paula C. Johnson

Professor Paula JohnsonProfessor of Law
Director, Cold Case Justice Initiative

(315) 443-3364
Curriculum Vitae [PDF]

Paula C. Johnson is a professor of law at Syracuse University College of Law and newly appointed to the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission. This commission advises and educates decision makers in the New York Court System on issues surrounding litigants and employees of color, implementing recommendations in addressing these issues to ensure equitable justice in New York State. She earned her B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park; J.D. from Temple University School of Law; and her LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center. Professor Johnson and Professor Janis McDonald (emerita), co-founded and direct the Cold Case Justice Initiative (CCJI) at Syracuse University College of Law, which investigates racially-motivated murders committed during the civil rights era and in contemporary times. Professor Johnson has held several distinguished teaching posts, including the Haywood Burns Chair in Civil Rights at CUNY Law School (2005-2006), the Sparks Chair at the University of Alabama School of Law (2008), and the Syracuse University College of Law Bond, Schoeneck and King Distinguished Professorship (2004-2006). She also has taught at law schools at the University of Arizona, University of Baltimore, and Northern Illinois University.

In addition to CCJI-related courses, her teaching areas include criminal law, criminal procedure, race and law, voting rights, professional responsibility, and a seminar on women in the criminal justice system. Her scholarship and activism focus on matters of race, gender, sexuality, criminal law, international human rights, diversity and access to higher education. Her writings include “Beyond Displacement: Gentrification of Racialized Spaces as Violence—Harlem, New York and New Orleans, Louisiana,” in Accumulating Insecurity: Violence and Dispossession in the Making of Everyday Life (Feldman, Geisler & Menon, eds., Univ. Georgia Press 2011); Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States (Univ. Calif. Press 2010); and Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison (NYU Press, 2003).

She is a member of the Democratizing Knowledge Collective at Syracuse University, an interdisciplinary collective that works to create just and inclusive spaces at the university and that values knowledge within and beyond the academy. From 2002-2003, she served as co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), a national organization of approximately 900 law professors. At Syracuse University, Professor Johnson serves on a broad range of College of Law and University committees, including Curriculum (chair), Promotion and Tenure, Inclusion Council, and International Programs. She is faculty advisor to the Black Law Students Association and OUTLAW (LGBTQ organization). She advises law students’ research, and serves on committees for joint degree students at SU College of Law and other schools/colleges, and serves on committees for doctoral and master’s degree candidates at Syracuse University.

Her honors and awards include the Syracuse University College of Law Award recognizing the Cold Case Justice Initiative on CCJI’s Tenth Anniversary (2018); Syracuse University Black Law Students Association Outstanding Advisor Award (2018); the Syracuse University Office of Program Development, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Black History Month Committee’s Trailblazer Award (February 2016); Central New York ACLU Ralph E. Kharas Distinguished Service Award in Civil Liberties (2015); Emmett Till Legacy Foundation Woman of Courage Award in Honor of Mamie Till Mobley (2015); National Civil Rights Social Justice Award (Philadelphia, MS 2014); Syracuse University Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence; and the Unsung Heroine Award from the Syracuse University Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Committee.


  • Georgetown University Law Center
    LL.M. 1990
  • Temple University School of Law
    J.D. 1985
  • University of Maryland
    B.A. 1981