Lawyer recovering after collapsing in BR federal court Wednesday morning

Baton Rouge lawyer Ron Johnson collapsed in a federal district courtroom Wednesday and had to be resuscitated, prompting an indefinite recess of the trial of a lawsuit challenging Baton Rouge City Court election boundaries.

Johnson, the twin brother of state District Judge Don Johnson, remained hospitalized Wednesday night at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

He fell to the floor Wednesday morning inside Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson’s courtroom shortly after the trial of the civil rights suit entered its third day.

Johnson is the lead attorney for the black plaintiffs in the case.

His co-counsel, Steve Irving, said he and Johnson were reviewing documents at a podium inside the courtroom during a brief break in the trial when Johnson collapsed. The judge was not in the courtroom.

Irving said he checked Johnson for a pulse but found none. Courtroom security personnel performed CPR on Johnson and restored a pulse before EMS personnel arrived.

“He was not without a pulse for very long,” Irving said.

“It was very shocking. It did look serious,” James Hilburn, an attorney for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office in the case, said of Johnson’s collapse, which occurred about 10 a.m.

Irving visited Johnson in the OLOL emergency room not long after his arrival there and said Johnson was awake and talking.

“He knew where he was but didn’t have any knowledge of what happened this morning,” Irving said. “He was awake. He was talking. He knew who I was.”

Jackson indefinitely recessed the bench trial and will confer with attorneys on both sides Monday, Hilburn said.

The 2012 suit alleges City Court election boundaries dilute the voting strength of black Baton Rouge residents.

City Court boundaries were drawn by the Legislature in 1993 when the city’s white residents totaled 60 percent of the population, the suit states. The 2010 census showed more than 54 percent of the city’s population is now black, while white residents dropped to about 38 percent, the suit contends.

Three of City Court’s five judges are white; two are black.