Federal Judge Ed Johnstone Remembered for Changing Kentucky Prisons

Jun 27, 2013

Credit Larry Spitzer/Courier Journal / exploreuk.uky.edu

Federal judge Edward Johnstone who reformed Kentucky’s prison system died yesterday at age 91.

The longtime Princeton Kentucky resident served as a circuit court judge in Lyon, Trigg, Livingston and Caldwell counties in 1976 before President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the federal bench the following year.

Johnstone mentored Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham when he was a young lawyer. Cunningham says Johnstone was well respected in the law community even if people did not agree with his policies.

“What set him apart from other judges was the tremendous respect that people had for him because they knew that he was going to follow the law and he was going to make decisions based on what was right and wrong and not what was politically expedient and the way he treated people,” Cunningham says. “And I think what set him apart perhaps more than other judges was the tremendous respect he gave people who were kind of on the underbelly of society.”

Johnstone’s greatest impact was on the prison system helping to improve its penitentiary and reformatory and carve out new rights for women prisoners.