CCJI Directors

Through a College of Law initiative, professors Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald and their students are investigating unsolved murders from the civil rights era.

Paula C. Johnson


Professor of Law
College of Law
Syracuse University


B.A., University of Maryland at College Park
J.D., Temple University
LL.M., Georgetown University

Paula C. Johnson is professor of law at Syracuse University College of Law.  She was the Sparks Chair at the University of Alabama School of Law in 2008, and served as the Haywood Burns Chair in Civil Rights at CUNY Law School in 2005-2006, where she taught a seminar entitled, International Conflict Resolution in Africa. She also held the Syracuse University College of Law Bond, Schoeneck and King Distinguished Professorship from 2004-2006.  She was co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) , a national organization of approx. 900 law professors from 2002-2003.  She earned her B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park; her J.D. from Temple University School of Law; and her LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center.

Professor Johnson and Professor Janis McDonald co-direct the Cold Case Justice Initiative (CCJI) at Syracuse University College of Law, which investigates racially-motivated murders committed during the civil rights era.  She also was co-director of the Sierra Leone UN War Crimes Tribunal Project, within the Center for Global Law & Practice, with Professors Donna Arzt and Lucille Rignanese.  She was the founding director of the Law in Zimbabwe Summer Internship Program.

Her writings include Johnson, et al. (editors), Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States (Univ. of Calif. Press 2010), and Johnson, Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison (NYU Press 2003).  Her law review articles also include, Honoring William H. Johnson, Class of 1903: The First African American Graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, 55 Syracuse Law Review 429 (2005); Ad-In/Ad-Out: Deciding Victory and Defeat in Affirmative Action Legal Contestations, 66 Albany Law Review 433 (2003); Danger in the Diaspora: Law, Culture and Violence Against Women of African Descent in the United States and South Africa, 1 Univ. of Iowa Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 471 (1998); and Silence Equals Death: The Response to AIDS within Communities of Color, University of Illinois Law Review 1075 (1992).

Professor Johnson’s service includes a broad range of College of Law, University and Community committees and organizations.  She served on the Chancellor’s Search Committee, and has served as co-chair of Sistaprof, an organization of Africana women professors at Syracuse University.  She served as co-chair of Syracuse University’s LGBT Concerns Committee.  Her public service also has included membership on the boards of the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO), Empire State Justice Alliance, the Center for Community Alternatives, and the Battered Women’s Justice Project National Advisory Committee.

In 2003, she received the Unsung Heroine Award from the Syracuse University Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Committee, and the Woman of the Year Award from the Syracuse University African American Male Congress.

Janis L. McDonald


Professor of Law
College of Law
Syracuse University


B.A., George Washington University
J.D., Hofstra University School of Law
LL.M., Yale Law School

Professor McDonald is a Professor and the Co-Director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative (“CCJI”). The CCJI was established in early 2007 by Professor McDonald and Professor Paula C. Johnson to assist the families of those killed by acts of racial hatred and violence in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. Over fifty law students have volunteered to investigate long buried information that might help persuade the FBI, The U.S. Department of Justice or local law enforcement officials to prosecute these long neglected murders. She and Professor Johnson also co-teach a unique new interdisciplinary course, “Investigating and Reopening Civil Rights Era Murders,” with graduate students from the SUCOL and other graduate schools at S.U. The course received the 2008 Syracuse University Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship in Action. Professor Johnson and McDonald work to help other law schools adopt the model of the CCJI to assist other families who seek justice.

Professor McDonald is editor and co-author of Employment Discrimination: Problems, Cases and Critical Perspectives, published by Pearson/Prentice Hall in 2006. Her current book, Love Is Not Colorblind: Raising a Black Child in a Not So Polite White World, is currently under submission. She is also working on another book, Henry Orne: Judge on the Underground Railroad or Slave Master in 1840 Maine? She is the co-author with Professor Kevin Maillard of The Anatomy of Grey: A Theory of Interracial Convergence,” recently published by the University of Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality. Her article, Heroes Or Spoilers: The Role of the Media in the Trials of Unsolved Civil Rights Era Murders, is scheduled for publication this fall by Ohio Northern University Law Review in their symposium issue.

Before joining the law faculty, Professor McDonald was a member of the law firm of Hirschkop & Grad, P.C. in Alexandria Virginia where she litigated cases in the federal and local courts in the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Several of her cases established new sexual harassment and medical malpractice laws. She taught at Ohio Northern University College of Law and Yale Law School. She was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Public and International Law and wrote several articles on civil rights litigation and American legal history. Several federal courts have cited her civil rights article. Professor McDonald served as president of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, a national organization representing more than 80,000 women attorneys and was one of the two founders of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association. She teaches Constitutional Law, Investigating and Reopening Civil Rights Era Murders, Criminal Law, Employment Discrimination and American Legal History. She also participates in the emerging field of Critical White Racial Studies.