Bruce Johnson (1963)

Litigation Attorney, Office of Consumer Counsel,Connecticut

I earned my Ph.D. in 1973, having left in 1971 to teach at UC San Diego. In 1982, I left UCSD, having been denied tenure. In 1985, I graduated from Yale Law School. I now am a litigation attorney at the Office of Consumer Counsel, a State of Connecticut agency. We advocate for the ratepayers of regulated utilities. The simplest way give you a flavor of my legal/policy practice is to refer you to our agency website, www.occ.state.ct.us, from which [at the “What’s New” link] you can download a long piece titled “ELECTRIC RESTRUCTURING TODAY: The OCC White Paper.” While that document does not have my name on it, I wrote it.

You ask how Berkeley influenced my use of sociology. At Berkeley, I learned social science from three marvelous sources. First, key faculty (e.g., Reinhard Bendix and Bob Blauner in Sociology; Henry May/History; Sheldon Wolin/Political Science). Second, numerous fellow students (e.g., Nigel Young, Sam Kaplan, Volker Eisele). Third, the very times (e.g., the Free Speech Movement, La Huelga and Country Joe’s I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-to-Die Rag).

I took a Berkeley ethos (critical, historical approach to sociological issues, etc.) with me to UCSD and that is part of why retrograde senior faculty there voted against my tenure. That event (which of course angered and frustrated me at the time) turned out okay, partly because I had come to believe that college teaching has no helpful effects on students. By then, I had been an expert witness in some legal cases, which helped me decide what to do next. My social science experience undoubtedly has made me a better lawyer, so that is a continuing benefit.

You also ask how my sociology has shaped the world. What a hubris-laden question! The obvious answer, of course, is not at all. I doubt whether anyone with a Berkeley Sociology Ph.D. can claim much influence in the world beyond academic sociology as such. In the 1960’s, after his fatal heart attack, we said “C. Wright Mills lives” --- but of course this did not turn out to be true as meant (because no critical mass of public intellectuals emerged in sociology thereafter). By now I have spent more time working as a lawyer than as a sociologist. I like this second career just fine, and believe that in it I have “shaped the world” more effectively than I could have done as a sociologist. Also, I find it a lot more challenging to convince a judge to decide a dispute my way than to explain ideas to undergraduates.

Dissertation Title: 
Discretionary Justice and Racial Domination: A Study of Arrest Without Prosecution in Urban America Today