Kelli Johnson

Harris County Criminal District Court, 178th District

Kelli was the first out lesbian judge elected to the 178th Criminal District Court in Texas!


Judge Kelli Johnson was elected in 2016 to the 178th Criminal District Court after serving as Assistant District Attorney for 17 years. She enjoyed growing up watching her dad advocate for people in need as a plaintiff lawyer in the small town of Sulphur Springs, Texas. Judge Johnson graduated in the top five of her class at her high school and went on to graduate cum laude from Texas Christian University in Business Communications and a fluency in Spanish from the University of Salamanca, Spain. Thereafter, she worked at the White House as an intern with the offices of White House Presidential Inquiries and the Office of Media Affairs. As a member of the White House Press Advance, she traveled the world as a liaison for the White House press for the President. She graduated with honors from South Texas College of Law and was 8th on the Texas Bar Exam. In law school she enjoyed leadership opportunities as Governor of the American Bar Association over Texas and Louisiana law schools. She was President of the Student Body and Moot and Mock Trial finalists in various competitions. She enjoyed an internship at the Court of Criminal Appeals writing the only unanimous first impression opinion regarding criminal trademark infringement. As Judge, she has been elected to her second term in 2020. She has had leadership roles in various positions. She was honored to have been selected by her peers twice to serve as the Administrative Judge over the Criminal Board. Probably her greatest pride is serving as a volunteer STAR (Success Through Addiction Recovery) judge over the young women’s docket. This is a passion of hers as she also serves on the State of Texas’ Board of Texas Association of Specialty Courts and was recently awarded the 2024 Judge John C. Creuzot Award for Judicial Vision and Leadership by Judge Creuzot himself. She has been a speaker with various different organizations, including the Diversity summit with the Houston Bar Association, Ted Talks with the National Association of Women Judges, Texas Bar Association, and the organizer of the Criminal Bench Bar Conference. There she received the President’s award from the Houston Bar Association and recently graduated as a Senior Fellow of the Class of LX with the American Leadership Forum. Lastly, and probably one of her proudest volunteer moments is her sponsorship and organization of the Texas High School Mock Trial Competition where local judges and lawyers on both sides of the bar dedicate their time to preside over the youth competition. Judge Johnson is married to Hilary Johnson and they have two amazing sons, Evan, 14 and William, 2 years old. She hopes that she paved the way for others as she was the first openly gay female judge elected in Harris County.