Barnabas D. Johnson

barnabas.johnson@gmail.com

Co-founder with Lowry Wyman of the Jurlandia Institute

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Barnabas David Johnson was born on 8 May 1943 in Primavera, Paraguay, South America, of British parents. His first language was German, his childhood companions being mostly refugees from Nazi oppression whose parents had sought peace through communal life as — they believed — was ordained by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Members had no private property … or, eventually, the right to independent inquiry and thought. 

Barnabas was expelled from this communal enterprise at age 14, following two glorious years on a large communal farm in North Dakota. His early ideas about music, science, government, and freedom of inquiry arose — one might imagine — during long nights driving a tractor. These ideas did not support the prevailing faith-trend, however, which was becoming fatally evidence-averse.

Most of his best college education was in night school, when he worked days as a land surveyor. An eventual full-time student, he won his university’s oratory championship. His topic was global population constraints. During this time Barnabas was also much engaged in civil rights and anti-war activism.

He received his J.D. degree from Harvard University in 1970, where he focused on international and comparative law and jurisprudence. Following service in St. Louis as a civil rights lawyer, in 1976 Barnabas worked for Prof. Harold J. Berman of Harvard on the origins and coevolution (in essence) of the legal and judicial professions. In 1983 Barnabas helped found, and thereafter managed, the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary (1983-1989), a loose-leaf service that profiled and evaluated all federal judges in the United States.

Starting in 1989, Barnabas worked with his wife, Lowry Wyman (1950-2015), on post-Soviet law reform and legal-education reform. During 1998-2003, Dr. Johnson was Professor of Law at the American University of Armenia, where he served as Director of the Legal Research Center, Associate Dean, and on-site manager of the new AUA Department of Law, then affiliated with the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. 

Wyman and Johnson were advisors to Lithuania when it sought its independence from the USSR in 1990-91. The first version of what has become the Constitution of Jurlandia was drafted at the request of President Vytautas Landsbergis in the days following the attempted Soviet takeover of Lithuania on 13 January 1991. A revised version was the basis of the Proposed Alternative Constitution of Kazakhstan, 1995. The original constitutional text (English and Russian) was published on the early Internet (RUSS-L) in 1991, and an Armenian-language version was prepared in 2001 as a teaching tool to promote constitutional reform in Armenia. See Constitution of Jurlandia.

The “pedagogical country” of Jurlandia was initially created in aid of Professor Johnson’s courses on Comparative Constitutional Law. That pedagogical terrain remains dedicated to exploring the general proposition that a good constitutional democracy is a self-regulating learning organism. See Conversation of Democracy.

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