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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law
An outdoor headshot of Joel Johnson in front of a tree.

Joel S. Johnson

Associate Professor of Law
Caruso School of Law


Professor Joel Johnson joined the Pepperdine Caruso Law faculty in 2022.  His research focuses on constitutional limits on substantive criminal law and explores the implications of those limits for statutory interpretation, criminal procedure, and federal courts.  Professor Johnson’s scholarship has appeared or will appear in the University of Chicago Law Review, the Georgetown Law Journal, and the Virginia Law Review.  Multiple federal courts have cited his work.  Professor Johnson received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship in 2022-2023.

Professor Johnson teaches Criminal Procedure and Torts.  During his first year as a law professor, he won the 1L Professor of the Year Award.

Professor Johnson is also an experienced Supreme Court and appellate litigator.  Before joining Pepperdine, he was an attorney in the Criminal Appellate Section of the Department of Justice and an appellate specialist at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Williams & Connolly LLP.  Professor Johnson has drafted dozens of merits-stage and cert-stage briefs in the Supreme Court, including winning merits briefs in Concepcion v. United States (2022), Carr v. Saul (2021), Seila Law v. CFPB (2020), and Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus LLP (2019).  The majority opinion in Van Buren v. United States (2021) favorably cited the amicus brief he drafted on behalf of over 40 media entities (including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post), which drew on his scholarship on the vagueness doctrine.  Professor Johnson has also briefed and argued several cases in the federal courts of appeals. 

Professor Johnson graduated first in his class from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he served as the Articles Development Editor of the Virginia Law Review and won the Margaret G. Hyde Award.  After law school, Professor Johnson clerked for Judge Robert D. Sack of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Judge T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.


Forthcoming Articles


Popular Press


Areas of Expertise

  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Statutory Interpretation


  • Criminal Procedure
  • Statutory Interpretation
  • Torts