Idaho Supreme Court Justice Byron Johnson Dies


Byron Johnson, 75, died Dec. 9.
  • Jeremy Laningham
  • Byron Johnson, 75, died Dec. 9.

Byron Johnson, 75—who argued and ruled on hundreds of cases with long-standing consequence as an attorney and then a justice during 11 years on the Idaho Supreme Court—died Dec. 9 at his home after a battle with cancer.

"In July 2010, I was diagnosed with osteomyelitis: an infection of the jawbone," Johnson told Boise Weekly in May in one of his final interviews. "I underwent a procedure at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Utah called 'a flap.' They slit your throat, pull the skin up over the face, take out the jawbone, replace it with a bone from the tibia of your leg, hold it together with titanium, bring the flap back down and sew you up.

Johnson explained that last spring, he had a re-occurrence of a tumor and was scheduled to start chemo at the Mountain States Tumor Institute, with radiation to follow.

"I told them I was a gambling man and asked if they would give me a 50-50 shot, and they said no, it would be less than that," he told BW.

A child of the Depression, Johnson graduated from the Harvard Law School before going to work for Elam, Burke and Jeppesen in Boise. In 1970, he helped create the Boise chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and was ultimately appointed to Idaho's high court in 1999.

Johnson, who penned his memoirs, Poetic Justice, earlier this year, said his life's joy came from his home, his wife Patricia, his children and grandchildren. With his wife and children at his side, Johnson died early on the morning of Dec. 9 at his Boise home.

You can read our conversation here.