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Experience. Empathy. Equality.

It has been an honor to serve Harris County as both a Judge and former Assistant District Attorney. With over 20 years of public service in Houston, restoring respect and fairness in the courtroom has become one of my top priorities. I recognize that those in our system are real people and not just numbers. I recognize pervasive problems of racial and ethnic disparity have plagued our justice system for too long so strive to create equality for everyone.

Since taking my oath of office in 2017, I have presided over cases ranging from low-risk state jail felonies to capital murder. I am honored and grateful to serve in my role of State District Judge for the 178th Criminal District Court and look forward to continuing my service to all the citizens of Harris County.

“Justice is more than a conviction or an acquittal. It’s about following the rule of law while preserving the rights of Harris County Citizens.”

– Judge Kelli Johnson


Judge Johnson was elected to the 178th Criminal District Court in 2016 and to her second term in 2020. She will be running for a third term in 2024.

She advocates for expanding programs in mental health concerns and addiction recovery and helps young women on her docket overcome addictions, volunteering as a judge with the Success Through Addiction Recovery or STAR program. She also proudly sponsors and organizes the Texas High School Mock Trial Competition, where lxsocal judges donate time presiding over youth competitions.

Judge Johnson with graduates in courtroom
Judge Johnson with STAR graduate

Judge Johnson has been honored by victim’s groups and law enforcement agencies throughout her career. She was named Prosecutor of the Year in 2008, and in 2010, HPD honored her for outstanding work in gang prosecution. She was elected by her peers as the Administrative Judge over the Criminal Board. Judge Johnson was awarded a fellowship with the American Leadership Forum and received a Houston Bar Association President’s Award. She has twice been elected by her peers to serve as the Administrative Judge over the Criminal Board. She has been a keynote speaker at the Diversity Summit for the Houston Bar Association, delivered a Ted Talk with the National Association of Women Judges, and organized the Criminal Bench Bar Conference.

Kelli is married to Hilary Bartlett Johnson, and they have two sons, Evan (13) and William (1). She is the first openly gay female judge in Harris County and hopes her contributions to the legal profession and community at large will pave the way for others.

photo of Judge Johnson's family

Judge Johnson with wife, Hillary Bartlett Johnson, and sons Evan (13) and William (1).


  • Graduated in the top 10% from South Texas College of Law
  • Fluency in Spanish from the University of Salamanca, Spain
  • Ranked #8 in the State of Texas for State Bar Exam
  • Served as White House Intern and White House Press Advance Team member for two years
  • Host Judge of the High School Mock Trial Competition
  • Presided over cases ranging from low-risk state jail felonies to capital murder cases
  • Spearheaded the implementation of the new mental health assessment to address the continued concern of mental health issues in our system
  • Committee Chair for deployment of a new docket management system that creates greater efficiency for all courts
  • Received commendations for Outstanding Service in Gang Prosecution and the Chief of Police Commendation
  • Twice awarded Prosecutor of the Year
  • Crime Victims Appreciation Award Winner
  • Named Gang Prosecutor of the Year

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