Donald Johnson celebrates 50 years practicing law

Defence lawyers Donald Johnson and William Webber shake hands as Johnson is presented with a painting of himself to celebrate 50 years as a lawyer on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. The painting was a months-long project by Crown Attorney Jason Pilon and Webber, with support from members of the SD&G Law Association and the Crown Attorney's office. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Cornwall lawyer Donald W. Johnson has celebrated a career milestone.

Surrounded by lawyers, Crown attorneys and legal staff at Schnitzel’s on Thursday night, Johnson was presented with a painting of himself to mark 50 years since being called to the Bar.

The painting project has been several months in the making by Crown Attorney Jason Pilon and defence lawyer William Webber with support from members of the SD&G Law Association and the Crown Attorney’s office.

The painting of Johnson depicts him in court dress inside the Ontario Superior Court of Justice with a glass of water and a stack of books. “Oh, wow!” Johnson exclaimed as the painting was unveiled.

“I’ll tell you one secret that I learned. A guy named Bobbie Zimmerman, also known as Bob Dylan, what he said in a song called Subterranean Homesick Blues. Twenty years of schooling and all I got was a day shift. That doesn’t work for lawyers, as you know. Day shift, afternoon shift and graveyard shift and that’s how it works. It’s one lesson I learned through all this career I had,” Johnson said to applause.

The presentation including a recitation of a legal poem from lawyer Stephen Renner. “So I ask you all without hesitation, to show with suitable elation. Now that we’ve all had several beers, Donald you have earned the respect and admiration of your peers.”

Johnson graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto in 1966 before he was called to the Bar in 1968. He was an assistant Crown Attorney before he assigned as Crown Attorney for SD&G. In 1981, he moved over to the defence side and has been there since then.

Lawyer William Webber unveils a portrait for defence lawyer Donald Johnson celebrating his 50 year anniversary of being called to the Bar. The painting was presented during a celebration at Schnitzel’s in Cornwall, Ont. on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Johnson was asked what it’s like to celebrate 50 years. “My first answer is I thought I would never get this far. Number two, now that I’m here, I enjoy every minute of it, no question about it. I’ve had some up times and down times but it’s all been worth it, I can guarantee you that.”

Asked whether he preferred his 24 years as a prosecutor or 26 years as a defence lawyer, Johnson said he liked them equally.

“I preferred both of them. I figured I did enough as a Crown Attorney, I wanted to try something else. I guess that was my middle-aged crazy. I did it in 1991 so I would have been 50 years old at that point. Decided I would do it and see what happens,” Johnson reminisced.

Johnson said the only other thing he would have liked to do during his career was teach more people about criminal law. “I tried, but I don’t think I got to all of them.”

As for summing up his career, Johnson referenced the movie Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. “At the end of the movie he sings a song called ‘It’s Been A Beautiful Ride,’ talking about his life and that’s what it’s been for me.”

“It’s been a good life.”