Johnny Barnes is the self-described “People’s Lawyer” who spent more than a quarter of a century in various Congressional staff positions, including service as Chief of Staff for three Members of Congress. In addition, he has taught law and college courses at area schools and has practiced law in the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. Of his time spent in the Virgin Islands as a trial lawyer, Barnes unapologetically states, “Someone had to do it. So I made the sacrifice.”
Other related experience includes his appointment as the first male Member of the D.C. Commission for Women; as a Member of the D.C. Commission on Residential Mortgage Investment, an entity that tackled the prevalent problem of redlining and mortgage loan discrimination; as a Member of the D.C. Human Rights Commission; and as an attorney on a Special Task Force that addressed ill treatment of small Minority farmers by the Reagan and Bush administrations and discrimination by rural loan officers. That activity resulted in a resolution --- supported by the Congressional Republican Leadership --- in which billions of dollars was slated to flow to the Minority farmers. Barnes is particularly proud of the role he played in helping to create the “Street Law” Program at Georgetown University Law Center; a program that began in two D.C. High Schools and is now taught throughout the United States in schools and prisons and in thirty-five foreign countries.
A Distinguished Military Graduate, Commissioned and Honorably Discharged, Regular Army, Combat Engineer Officer, Barnes graduated, Cum Laude, from Central State University and received his Juris Doctor Degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He is the Father of two grown sons, a grown daughter and three grandchildren; his latest, a girl, is named in part after his Mother, Pinkie, who Barnes believes was a modern day Saint on earth. Barnes recently retired after serving a decade as the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union for the Nation’s Capital. He is currently in private law practice as a trial lawyer, taking and litigating select “cause” cases.
During his time at the ACLU-NCA, he led several successful efforts to conserve the Constitution and preserve the Bill of Rights. Among those efforts were resisting the proliferation of video surveillance cameras in D.C.; fighting against proposed warrantless searches by the D.C. Police; standing up against unconstitutional police checkpoints in the Trinidad Neighborhood; and pushing back against the Secure Communities program in behalf of D.C.’s Immigrant population. Barnes recently worked with several interns in updating and completing a soon-to-be-released law article on D.C. Statehood, the unfinished human rights business in America. He continues to devote much of his time to the quest for D.C. Statehood and predicts it will happen in our lifetime.