Carrie Johnson

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.

She covers a wide variety of stories about justice issues, law enforcement, and legal affairs for NPR's flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as the newscasts and NPR.org.

Johnson has chronicled major challenges to the landmark voting rights law, a botched law enforcement operation targeting gun traffickers along the Southwest border, and the Obama administration's deadly drone program for suspected terrorists overseas.

Prior to coming to NPR in 2010, Johnson worked at the Washington Post for 10 years, where she closely observed the FBI, the Justice Department, and criminal trials of the former leaders of Enron, HealthSouth, and Tyco. Earlier in her career, she wrote about courts for the weekly publication Legal Times.

Her work has been honored with awards from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Society for Professional Journalists, SABEW, and the National Juvenile Defender Center. She has been a finalist for the Loeb Award for financial journalism and for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for team coverage of the massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

Johnson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Benedictine University in Illinois.

Judges with backgrounds as prosecutors or corporate lawyers, who represent the majority of federal district court jurists, are significantly more likely to rule in favor of employers in workplace disputes, according to a new study of diversity on the bench.

Emory University law professor Joanna Shepherd conducted the study, which which she described as the first published research about whether judges from certain professional backgrounds are more likely to rule against workers.

Most people know Judge Merrick Garland for what didn't happen to him. Five years ago, the Senate never acted on his nomination to the Supreme Court.

This week, that will change, as a new chapter begins in Garland's lifelong commitment to public service. Garland, 68, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday as President Biden's pick to serve as attorney general. This time, few obstacles stand in his path to confirmation. But the institution he's likely to join operates largely in a state of shock.

Two brothers who once expected to die in prison are now free — and home in Philadelphia.

Wyatt and Reid Evans spent 37 years behind bars for their part in a car-jacking gone bad. The brothers didn't intend to take a life in 1980. They stole a car and dropped off the driver at a pay phone booth. But the man later died of a heart attack.

The brothers refused a plea deal and were convicted of second-degree murder. Under Pennsylvania law, that meant life in prison.

A first-of-its-kind court case in Pennsylvania is asking a big question: How long do people need to stay in prison before they get a second chance?

More than 1,000 people are serving life without parole in Pennsylvania, even though they never intended to kill anyone. Seventy percent of those people are Black.

I met Tyreem Rivers on the phone in November, when his voice was a little muffled.

"Well, I have two or three masks on," Rivers said with a laugh. "I have at least two masks on, so I'm trying to stay safe."

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is launching a scholarship program designed to produce a new team of civil rights advocates working for racial justice in the South.

Unveiled on Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — the program will offer free tuition and room and board, a commitment intended to remove barriers for students deterred by the steep costs of law school.

Civil liberties advocates are warning that the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol could lead to new police and surveillance powers. If history is a guide, they say, those tools could be used against Blacks and other people of color in the justice system, not the white rioters who stormed Congress.

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Updated at 1:10 p.m. ET

Federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland will be nominated to serve as attorney general in the administration of President-elect Joe Biden, NPR has learned from two sources familiar with the process.

Garland, 68, is the widely respected former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has deep roots inside the Justice Department, where he launched his career decades ago.

Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET

The federal prosecutor seeking to try WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Espionage Act charges said he's uncertain about whether the administration of President-elect Joe Biden would continue the extradition effort.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

Federal watchdogs who guard against fraud foresee plenty of work to keep them busy next year: from more than 100 investigations related to the coronavirus pandemic to new probes over misuse of some of the nearly $3.5 trillion in stimulus money.

Justice Department whistleblowers are calling on federal watchdogs and members of Congress to investigate what they call illegal and abusive government directives that waste money and chill "diversity-related speech across the entire federal workforce."

NPR has obtained a letter by a lawyer for the whistleblowers, who report that diversity and inclusion programs they had planned for the Justice Department earlier this year were branded "divisive propaganda" and had to be canceled.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

The U.S. Justice Department has charged a Libyan man with constructing a bomb that detonated on a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people and launching a decades-long international manhunt for the culprits.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced Monday — exactly 32 years after that deadly flight — that the department is charging Abu Agela Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi.

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Attorney General Bill Barr is out, so starting next week, Jeffrey Rosen will serve as the acting attorney general for the final weeks of the Trump presidency. NPR's Carrie Johnson is here to tell us more about him. Hey, Carrie.

Updated at 11:12 a.m. ET

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen has largely operated outside the spotlight. But that may be about to change.

Rosen, 62, will run the Justice Department in the waning days of the administration at a time when White House officials are preparing for a wave of pardons and President Trump is demanding officials take more action on his baseless claims of voter fraud.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Veterans of the Justice Department are waiting with anticipation for President-elect Joe Biden to unveil his choice to serve as attorney general, a decision that has weighty consequences for civil rights and public confidence in the troubled department.

A prospective top Justice Department nominee is expected before Christmas, a transition spokesperson said Monday — a trajectory that would make the person last to be named among the "Big Four" Cabinet offices, together with the leaders of the Treasury, State and Defense departments.

Updated at 9:25 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden plans to name Lloyd Austin, the retired U.S. Army four-star general, as his pick for secretary of defense in his incoming administration, two sources familiar with the decision confirmed to NPR.

Austin joins a growing and diverse list of nominees for Biden's cabinet, which the president-elect has said he wants to reflect the diversity of America. If confirmed, Austin would be the first African American to lead the department.

Six months after Donald Trump became president, he delivered remarks about law enforcement that set the tone for civil rights.

In a speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, Trump said: "Please don't be too nice." To applause from the crowd, the president added that it might not be necessary to protect the heads of suspects being folded into the back of police cars.

For former civil rights prosecutor Kristy Parker, those words marked a major turnaround.

Federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland is under consideration to serve as attorney general in the administration of President-elect Joe Biden, NPR has learned from two people closely following the process.

Garland, 68, is the widely respected former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He launched his career at the Justice Department decades ago.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. EST 11/20/20

Choosing an attorney general is a critical task for a new president in normal times.

But after nearly four years of attack from President Trump, who pushed the Justice Department to punish his enemies and protect his friends, these are not normal times, as former Solicitor General Don Verrilli pointed out recently to an online audience at the Brennan Center for Justice.

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In 1991, then-Attorney General William Barr signed the official commissioning papers of an eager young prosecutor preparing to launch his career in Brooklyn.

That lawyer went on to take down mob kingpins and corrupt corporate executives before becoming perhaps the most widely known member of the special counsel team investigating Russia's attack on the 2016 election.

Andrew Weissmann, now 62, recalled a sense of relief after President Trump announced Barr would return to lead the Justice Department nearly two years ago.

President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court says she shares the outlook of her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But on the issue of the Second Amendment, Amy Coney Barrett seems to have staked out an even more conservative position.

That's got gun control advocates warning that big changes could be on the way if Barrett gets confirmed.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled people have a right to keep handguns at home to defend themselves. Since that time, the high court has mostly avoided taking on new gun cases, refusing to hear 10 such lawsuits in June alone.

A son of the late Justice Antonin Scalia apologized to his parish Sunday for attending a White House ceremony without wearing a mask.

The Rev. Paul Scalia of the St. James Catholic Church in suburban Virginia said he attended the Rose Garden ceremony where President Trump named Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his next pick for the Supreme Court. Barrett clerked for the elder Scalia and remains a friend of the family.

Updated at 4:47 p.m. ET

An attorney for former national security adviser Michael Flynn said she briefed President Trump and a lawyer working for him on the status of Flynn's criminal case in the past two weeks, according to statements in court on Tuesday.

The lawyer, Sidney Powell, initially told the judge she was wary of disclosing the contact because of so-called executive privilege, even though she does not work for Trump or the White House.

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Republicans expect President Trump to name Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the next nominee to the Supreme Court, according to a source with knowledge of the process, but the source cautioned that Trump could change his mind.

The source declined to be named, because the individual was not authorized to confirm the selection before the president announced it.

The White House declined comment.

Updated Friday, Sept. 25 at 11:08 a.m. ET

The FBI and the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Thursday that they are investigating "potential issues" with nine military ballots in one county. They believe the ballots were opened improperly, though they have not filed any charges or taken official action.

U.S. Attorney David Freed noted that the investigation remains active but said he is releasing the news publicly "based on the limited amount of time before the general election and the vital public importance of these issues."

In 1999, Christopher Vialva hitched a ride with a married couple visiting West Texas for a church revival meeting.

Authorities later found the bodies of Todd and Stacie Bagley in the trunk of their car. Todd Bagley died of a gunshot wound. Stacie Bagley died of smoke inhalation after the car was set on fire.

On Thursday, 20 years after he was convicted of that brutal crime, Vialva is scheduled to face lethal injection. His case stands out only because he's like most inmates on federal death row: a Black man who murdered white people, when he was very young.

Updated at 7:28 p.m. ET

Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing are emerging as serious contenders to fill the seat on the Supreme Court vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to sources familiar with the process.

An announcement on the nominee could come as early as Monday or Tuesday.

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