V Card


  • Federal and State Criminal Defense, Trials and Appeals
  • Corporate and Health Care Investigations and Defense
  • Board of Directors, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • President, Tennessee Innocence Project
  • Past President, Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Past Chair, Tennessee Bar Association Criminal Justice Section
  • Board of Directors, Knoxville Bar Association

Stephen Ross Johnson is a partner with Ritchie, Dillard, Davies and Johnson, PC in Knoxville, and is a nationally-known criminal defense trial and appellate attorney. Mr. Johnson has defended criminal cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States, ranging from complex white collar financial crimes to death penalty cases. He has argued or briefed cases before the Supreme Court of the United States; the Supreme Court of Tennessee; the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits; all federal district courts in Tennessee; the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and Tennessee Court of Appeals. He has been admitted to practice on a pro hac vice basis in a number of other federal and state courts.

Mr. Johnson has been defense counsel in jury trials and hearings in state and federal courts involving a variety of criminal offenses, including charges of theft of trade secrets, racketeering, money laundering, health care fraud, illegal gambling, government contract fraud, wire and mail fraud, bank fraud, perjury, firearms offenses, illegal drug distribution, assault, child abuse and neglect, internet crimes, rape, other sexual offenses and homicide. He has also successfully defended persons at jury trial in murder prosecutions when the death penalty was sought. Mr. Johnson has represented persons wrongfully convicted of serious felony matters on appeal and collateral review, to include direct appeal, state post-conviction, and federal habeas corpus proceedings. He also regularly represents health care providers and other licensed professionals in disciplinary matters.

Mr. Johnson serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), co-chairs NACDL’s Sixth Circuit amicus committee, and is a past President of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (TACDL). For three consecutive years he served as chair of the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) Criminal Justice Section, and he also served as the Associate General Counsel for the TBA. Mr. Johnson is on faculty with the Tennessee Criminal Defense College (TCDC), and is a member of the white-collar defense, sentencing, investment, forfeiture, and membership committees of NACDL. He serves as chair of the law office technology and management committee of the Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) and is both an officer and a Master of the Bench with the Hamilton Burnett Chapter of the American Inns of Court. He is a fellow of both the American Bar Foundation and the Knoxville Bar Foundation. For his volunteer efforts, the Tennessee Bar Association honored Mr. Johnson with its Access to Justice Award. He is listed in Best Lawyers in America in the area of white-collar criminal defense and has achieved an AV rating for preeminent legal ability and ethical standards from Martindale-Hubbell.

Mr. Johnson is the founding President of the Tennessee Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that seeks to investigate claims of actual innocence and reverse wrongful criminal convictions. For over a decade, he served as an adjunct professor with the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he supervised third year law students in the Innocence and Wrongful Convictions Clinic, an initiative he helped create. He has published articles and taught lawyers, law students, members of law enforcement, and others on the topics of electronic evidence, trial practice, wiretapping, ethics, federal grand jury investigations, the death penalty, pretrial preparation, forensics, jury selection, cross-examination, and other criminal law and litigation issues. He has been quoted or profiled in the Tennessee Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, Newsweek and the National Law Journal. He is listed in SuperLawyers, Cityview’s Top Attorneys, and the Knoxville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.

Mr. Johnson is a graduate of the National Criminal Defense College (NCDC). He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence, with honors, from the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he served on the Constitutional Law Moot Court Team and the Moot Court Board, was a member of Transactions: The Tennessee Journal of Business Law, chaired the Speaker Series and UT Pro Bono, coordinated the Homeless Project, and was the founding director of the law school’s Innocence Project. Among other honors, he received the Excellence in Criminal Advocacy Award and the Dean’s Citation for Extraordinary Contributions to the College of Law.

Mr. Johnson completed his undergraduate education at Carson-Newman University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in International Economics with a minor in Political Science. Mr. Johnson attended graduate school at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, where he was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Economic History. He worked as an economist for Govan Initiative, a Scottish economic development agency.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Mr. Johnson worked in the education, banking, retail, farming, and manufacturing sectors, and also as a probation officer and private investigator. He regularly draws on his diverse academic and vocational experiences in representing his clients.

Mr. Johnson enjoys distance running and is an active member of his community. He is married and has three children. The most important titles he holds are husband and daddy.

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