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Harold Johnson

Staff Attorney, Director of Communications
PLF National Headquarters
(916) 419-7111

Practice areas

  • Budget and Taxpayers' Rights
  • First Amendment
  • Property Rights


A member of the California State Bar and United States Supreme Court Bar, Mr. Johnson’s litigation at PLF has focused on issues relating to state budget and tax law and taxpayers’ rights; property rights; and the First Amendment.

Among his key cases:
  • Lead attorney, representing successful appellant, in Travis v. County of Santa Cruz, 33 Cal. 4th 757 (2004) – a rent control case – in which the California Supreme Court held that a local land-use ordinance or regulation that conflicts with a subsequently enacted state law may be challenged, on an as-applied basis, whenever it is applied against a property owner.
  • Lead attorney, representing successful defendant-respondent, in Pension Obligation Bond Committee v. All Persons Interested, 152 Cal.App.4th 1386 (2007), in which the California Third District Court of Appeal held that borrowing (bonds) to fund the state’s pension obligation must be OK’d by the electorate, pursuant to the California Constitution’s requirement that state debt receive voter approval.
  • Amicus attorney in support of successful appellants in San Leandro Teachers Ass’n v. Governing Bd. of San Leandro Unified School Dist., 46 Cal.4th 822 (2009), in which the California Supreme Court held that public schools may not be compelled to permit employee unions to make free use of school mailboxes for distribution of one-sided political campaign material.
  • Amicus attorney in support of successful appellants in Silicon Valley Taxpayers Ass’n, Inc. v. Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, 44 Cal.4th 431 (2008), in which the California Supreme Court nullified an assessment on homeowners for unspecified purchases of open space, because it did not satisfy the California Constitution’s requirement for a direct and proportional connection between the purposes of an assessment and the property to be assessed.
  • Amicus attorney in support of successful appellant in Golden Gateway Center v. Golden Gateway Tenants Assn., 26 Cal.4th 1013 (2001), in which the California Supreme Court held that a private, security apartment complex is not the equivalent of a public forum and may not be compelled to accommodate the distribution of unsolicited newsletters to its apartments.


Mr. Johnson has contributed chapters on legal issues to two books:

  • Right to Private Property (Issues on Trial series), Greenhaven Press (2009); (an article on the doctrine of “temporary takings”).
  • California Republic: Institutions, Statesmanship and Policies, Rowan and Littlefield Publishing (2004); (a chapter on major trends at the California Supreme Court in the second half of the 20th Century).


As PLF’s Communications Director, Mr. Johnson oversees strategic and tactical media plans to explain, publicize and promote PLF and its litigation nationwide. In both 2006 and 2007, PLF’s Communications Program won gold prizes for excellence in public relations, in the “CAPPIE Awards” competition sponsored by the Sacramento Public Relations Association.

Prior to joining PLF, Mr. Johnson spent a number of years as a journalist, working on the editorial pages at major publications – including the Orange County Register, the (Denver) Rocky Mountain News, and the Los Angeles Daily News. He wrote unsigned editorials and opinion columns on legislative, legal, business and education issues.    He also served as a West Coast editor for National Review magazine.

Publications / Achievements
He has won journalism awards from the Associated Press, Sigma Delta Chi (Society of Professional Journalists); the Orange County Bar Association; the San Fernando Valley Press Club; and the California Teachers Association.

Mr. Johnson’s opinion articles have appeared in many publications nationwide, including The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, The Washington Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Mr. Johnson is a graduate of Pomona College, where he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa national scholastic honor society. He holds a masters degree from Oxford University and a law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.


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