Professor of Law
Thea Johnson
Rutgers Law School
217 N 5th St
Camden, NJ 08102
(856) 225-6036
  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Courses Taught
  • Expertise

Professor Johnson is a scholar of criminal procedure and one of the country's leading experts on plea bargaining practice and reform. Her scholarship focuses on the role of plea bargaining in the criminal legal system, including the ways in which stakeholders manipulate the plea process and stretch ethical boundaries to achieve particular outcomes.  Her article, “Fictional Pleas,” was selected for inclusion in the Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum and as the runner-up for the 2019 American Association of Law Schools’ Criminal Justice Section Junior Scholars’ Paper Competition. At Rutgers Law, Johnson received the 2022 Greg Lastowka Award for scholarly excellence.

Johnson was also the Reporter for the American Bar Association's Plea Bargain Task Force. She authored the Task Force's 2023 Report, which provided fourteen overarching principles and detailed guidance on ethical plea practice for policymakers, judges, and lawyers across the country. She is also a member of the Academic Working Group at the Plea Bargaining Institute at Belmont Law School. 

Prior to joining the faculty at Rutgers Law, Johnson was an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Maine School of Law where she was awarded Law Professor of the Year in 2019 and 2020. She was also a Thomas C. Grey Fellow at Stanford Law School, and a public defender with both the Federal Defenders of New York and the Criminal Defense Division of The Legal Aid Society in New York.

Professor Johnson graduated from The George Washington University Law School where she spent a semester working for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.  Prior to law school, Professor Johnson taught 8th-grade English and social studies at Colegio Americano de Quito (The American School of Quito) in Ecuador. She received her degree in history from Harvard.



  • Victims of Coercive Plea Bargaining: Defendants Who Give False Testimony for False Pleas (forthcoming 2024, American University Law Review) (with Lucian Dervan and Vanessa Edkins)


  • The Problem of False and Fictional Pleas, Book Chapter in The Cost of Bargains: Reflections and Recommendations from the ABA Plea Bargain Task Force (forthcoming 2023) (co-editor of book)


  • Trial Ambivalence (forthcoming, Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law (2023))






  • Lying at Plea Bargaining38 Ga. St. U. L. Rev. 673 (2022) (selected for the 2022 Lastowka Award for Scholarly Excellence at Rutgers Law School) 


  • Making Space in the Criminal Law Classroom, Book Chapter in Integrating Doctrine and Diversity: Inclusion & Equity in the Law School Classroom (Spring 2021)



  • Fictional Pleas, 94 Ind. L. J. 855 (2019) (selected for the 2018 Yale/Stanford/Harvard Junior Faculty Forum; selected as the runner-up for the 2019 American Association of Law Schools’ Criminal Justice Section Junior Scholars’ Paper Competition)







  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Criminal Trial Practice
  • Evidence