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Hon. Gerald G. Johnston

Hon. Gerald G. Johnston (Ret.)

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General Biography
Practice Areas
Estate Probate Trusts
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Hon. Gerald G. Johnston (Ret.) joined JAMS in 2024 after serving over 24 years as a judge with the Orange County Superior Court. From 2014 to 2023, Judge Johnston was the supervising judge of the Probate and Mental Health Division. From 2016 to 2019, he was appointed by the chief justice as a member of the Judicial Council Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee. Prior to becoming a judge, Judge Johnston served as deputy secretary for law enforcement and general counsel for the California Environmental Protection Agency. He began his legal career as a deputy district attorney in Orange County. Over the past 20 years, Judge Johnston has taught trust, probate, conservatorship and mental health law and proceedings for the Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER). 

During his tenure as a judge, Judge Johnston has overseen thousands of trust, probate, guardianship, conservatorship, elder abuse and mental health matters.

  • Available to mediate or arbitrate trusts, probate, conservatorship, guardianship, elder abuse and mental health matters
  • Has conducted hundreds of bench trials and over 100 jury trials as a judge
  • Has overseen countless mediation settlement conferences in probate-related matters pending before the court

Representative Matters

  • Ruled that a donative transfer to the drafter of a will made by a nonresident of California did not violate Probate Code Section 21350; affirmed; Estate of Clementi (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 375
  • Allocated burden of proof to objector regarding substantiating objections filed to a verified final inventory and appraisal of conservatee’s estate; affirmed; Conservatorship of Hume (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 1383
  • Found that a distribution of funds to by trustee was income and not principal under Probate Code Section 16360, which allowed a non-favored beneficiary to receive a share of the distribution; affirmed; Hasso v. Hasso (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 329
  • After conclusion of heavily litigated guardianship matter, attorney for trustee sought significant attorneys’ fees to be paid from trust of minor ward; the majority of requested fees were denied as unjustified and/or not related to the case before the court; affirmed; Santoyo v. Snyder (2010) Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3, G041632, G041629
  • After weekslong trial as to validity of trust executed by trustor days before death favoring trustor’s child and spouse from second marriage over children from first marriage, the court found insufficient evidence to establish trustor was subject to either undue influence or elder abuse; affirmed; Combs v. Fletcher (2008) Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3, G037540
  • Found the filing of a petition by trust beneficiary to compel sale of trust property did not constitute a violation of a no-contest clause of trust and was instead merely a challenge to the fiduciary power of the trustee; affirmed; Given v. Allison (2010) Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3, G041685
  • Established the proper procedure for determining attorneys’ fees under common fund doctrine was to delay any award until contested trust petitions are resolved; affirmed; Estate of Trikha (2018) Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3, G054909
  • Found that trust was valid and a lack of standing to object to actions of trustee or trust distribution by nephew of trustor, who was omitted as a trust beneficiary; affirmed; Randall v. Milliman (2018) Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3, G055133
  • In applying Moore/Marsden formula to determine community interest of surviving spouse in home titled to trust of decedent spouse, the court found survivor established the community contributed to the purchase and maintenance of the property and awarded surviving spouse an interest; affirmed; Estate of Collin v. Baker (2010) Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division 3, G040949
  • Helped mediate global resolution of multistate trust dispute between spouse of ill trustor and trustee of trust
  • Successfully managed and resolved elder abuse petition by children of octogenarian man alleging undue influence and fraud by much younger girlfriend
  • Oversaw litigation involving generational family dispute of closely held company where children of the founder alleged undue influence of elder abuse by new girlfriend
  • Managed litigation involving retired judge who was subject to elder abuse by family members

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Member, Trusts and Estates Section, Orange County Bar Association, 2014–2023
  • Member, Elder Law Section, Orange County Bar Association, 2014–2023
  • Member; Conservatorships, Guardianships and Protective Proceedings Section; Orange County Bar Association; 2017–2023
  • Member, Judicial Council Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee, 2016–2019
  • Chair, Superior Court Finance Committee, 2002–2009

Selected Publications

  • “Resources for Self-Represented Litigants in Probate,” Orange County Lawyer Magazine, April 2022
  • Contributor and Presenter of Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) training on CARE Act, May 2023

Background and Education

  • Orange County Superior Court, 1998–2023
    • Supervising Judge, Probate and Mental Health Division,2014–2023
    • Supervising Judge, Central Criminal Panel, 2012–2014
  • Deputy Secretary for Law Enforcement and General Counsel, California Environmental Protection Agency, 1995–1998
  • Deputy District Attorney, County of Orange, 1984–1995
  • J.D., University of Southern California Gould School of Law, 1984
  • B,A., cum laude, University of Redlands, 1980


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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