Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 12

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Ladies of the Bench "Team Up"
Continued from page 11

The Honorable
M. Theresa Johnson
I meet Judge Johnson on a snowy January day in the old
Courthouse. We sit across one another at a giant wooden table.
Her Chambers have high ceilings: quiet and open, natural light
fills the room.

Why run for judge? She explains simply, "I like challenges. So,
it was natural that would be the next challenge to undertake."

Throughout her career, she served in the Berks County District
Attorney's Office three separate times. In between stints, she
engaged in private practice. It was her experience as a prosecutor
that affects how she rules on the bench. She was in court "all the
time and doing trials, so in order to be successful, you had to have
an understanding of the rules of evidence." In private practice,
there was much less courtroom exposure. "My experience in the
DA's Office is what influences my decisions," she says pointedly.

in order to get further, I needed an advanced degree," she said. She
settled on pursuing an MBA. "I signed up for a six- or eight-week
course in the evening after work," which included classes on two
weeknights and a Saturday. "I paid for this review class and then I
sat for the MBA, and at the bottom of the test it said if you don't
want your test scored, sign here." She decided she did not want
her test scored and felt disappointed. "As I was walking out, I
saw a sign that said it's half off to take the law school exam." She
grabbed the flyer and signed up for the LSAT. She started the
whole process again and sat through another several weeks. Finally,
"it just clicked in my brain: this makes so much sense!"
Prior to that, she was an athlete at the Pennsylvania State
University. "When I got out of college and finished my athletic
career, there was a huge piece of me that was missing." She
described signing up for 5K runs to fill the void, but "just didn't
find the adrenaline rush."

She interned in the District Attorney's Office. When sitting
second chair on a three-defendant homicide trial, she rediscovered
"that spark that had been missing," and "thought 'oh my gosh, this
is what I want to do.'"
Judge Johnson describes the impetus to run for judge as
something different than a spark. "I wanted to do it, but I was
scared to do it." Ultimately, "I had to just take the plunge."

To do what scares you is something that worked out for her.
She encourages others to follow suit. "If you don't take the plunge,
will you always be asking yourself 'what if?' and if you take the
plunge and you lose, what harm is there?"

Judge Johnson is precise in her word choice. She discusses her
personality, and I see it unfolding in front of my eyes. "I'm a private
person... I had to put myself out there" to large groups, despite
being "a small group person," she says. In the process, "I really met
a lot of very nice people."
Unfortunately, serving as a judge can be isolating. The social
atmosphere of working in government or private practice involves
communicating with other attorneys and the police. But, as a
judge, "I went from being in the DA's Office with 100 people to
coming over here and the people I communicate with are three.
"I love the trials," she explains. "I like the use of the rules of
evidence. I just love the whole courtroom atmosphere."

Since taking the bench, she has managed cases ranging from
Protection from Abuse, support court, medical malpractice, civil,
criminal, and dependency. Outside of criminal, she most enjoyed
medical malpractice. "I found it to be so intriguing, challenging,
[and] stressful, because you're dealing with professionals, the
doctors or nurses or hospitals."

Judge Johnson began her journey to judgeship in Washington,
DC, just out of college working an entry-level job. "I realized that
12 | Berks Barrister

The Honorable
Eleni Dimitriou Geishauser
Judge Geishauser welcomes me to sit diagonally from her at a
table filled with miscellaneous items, including deer jerky for the
Sheriff 's Deputies.
She has Treatment Court graduation today.

With a wide smile, she begins by saying that the female
judges have a "just get it done" attitude. The "ladies team up!" she
exclaims. Collaboration, compromise, and camaraderie make the
magic happen.


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Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020

Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 1
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 2
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 3
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