Karl J. Johnson

Associate Minneapolis


Karl Johnson is one of only four attorneys in Minnesota certified as a Business Bankruptcy Specialist by the American Board of Certification. He has appeared as attorney of record in thousands of bankruptcy cases representing debtors, creditors, trustees, and other parties in interest in bankruptcy cases under chapters 7, 11, 12, and 13. Karl clerked for retired Chief Bankruptcy Judge Gregory F. Kishel from 2010 to 2012. Karl is the author of the “Real Estate in Bankruptcy” chapter in the Real Estate Law volume of the Minnesota Practice Series and other publications about bankruptcy topics. From 2017 to 2022, Karl was Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Bulletin. Karl speaks nationally on bankruptcy topics.

Karl represented the debtor with the first confirmed plan under subchapter V of chapter 11 in the nation. Karl has also prevailed on issues of first impression regarding treatment of business expenses and student loans in chapter 13. Karl has also successfully defended bankruptcy appeals.

Karl’s clients include individuals, businesses, and institutional creditors. Karl has experience litigating creditor-debtor disputes, collecting debts, defending FDCPA actions, and litigating shareholder disputes.

Karl has also represented logistics companies and large retailers in negotiating motor carrier agreements, transportation broker services agreements, fulfilment center agreements, warehouse services agreements, and bulk transportation agreements.

In addition to his professional work, Karl is dedicated to enriching his community. Karl is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Karl regularly represents pro bono clients and in 2018 received the Raeder Larson Public Service Award for his pro bono service. Karl serves on the board of directors of Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was founded in 1966 to connect pro bono attorneys with pro bono clients, and has held the positions of Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-Chair, and Chair of the board. Karl is also active with the Minnesota Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the Korean American Bar Association of Minnesota.


  • Taft Pro Bono Honor Roll Award


  • Honoree, Top Lawyers, Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law, Minnesota Monthly (2022)

  • Honoree, Best Lawyers® "Ones to Watch," Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law

    (2021 - present)

  • Honoree, Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Stars 

  • Honoree, 2018 Raeder Larson Public Service Award 


  • University of Minnesota Law School (2010)

    Magna Cum Laude

  • University of Michigan, M.A. (2002)
  • Sarah Lawrence College, B.A. (1996)


  • Federal - District of Minnesota
  • Federal - 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Federal - U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of Illinois

Notable Matters

  • Prevailed on issue of first impression regarding treatment of student loans in chapter 13: In re Jordahl, 539 B.R. 567 (8th Cir. BAP 2015)
  • Prevailed on issue of first impression regarding treatment of business expenses under chapter 13: In re Hoffman, 511 B.R. 128 (Bankr. D. Minn. 2014)
  • Represented a client in a bankruptcy adversary proceeding, resulting in state court sanctions being excepted from discharge
  • Defended a bankruptcy adversary proceeding based on allegations of fraud, resulting in dismissal of the complaint
  • Settled a seven-figure fraudulent transfer action for less than 8% of the amount in controversy
  • Negotiated adequate protection that resulted in larger plan payments for a bank client
  • Successfully argued that a nonprofit organization cannot be classified as a small business debtor in a Chapter 11 case and cannot be burdened with the additional procedural requirements that are imposed on a small business debtor
  • Represented debtor in the first confirmed plan in the Eighth Circuit under subchapter V of chapter 11
  • Represented debtors in the chapter 11 bankruptcy case of a restaurant chain with locations in more than a dozen states
  • Negotiated to settle a $1.5 million preference claim for only $170,000

Speeches and Publications

Selected Publications

  • Author, Real Estate in Bankruptcy, 25 MINNESOTA PRACTICE—REAL ESTATE LAW, Ch.7 (Wertheim ed., 2019-2021 eds.) 
  • Co-Author, "Sale of Assets," Bankruptcy Practice in Minnesota Deskbook (Larison, Running and Stewart eds., 1st ed., 2016 update; 2nd ed., 2018 and 2020 update)
  • Co-Author, "Bankruptcy Basics," Representing the Ongoing Business Deskbook, (Willeke edition, 2nd edition, 2017 and 2018 update)
  • Co-Author, "Vesting With or Without Agreement: Implications for Due Process," National Association of Chapter Thirteen Trustees Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 3, at 21 (2nd Qtr. 2016)

Selected Speeches

  • “Asset Sales and Liquidating Plans in Sub V,” Nat’l Assoc. of Bankr. Trustees Annual Conference, Chicago, Aug. 27, 2021
  • “7 Things Every Real Estate Attorney Needs to Know About Leases and Bankruptcy Right Now,” Minnesota CLE, July 21, 2021
  • “An Update on Subchapter V—Was it Worth It?” William J. O’Neill Great Lakes Regional Bankr. Institute, Cleveland, Ohio, May 21, 2021
  • Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019, Mitchell Hamline Law School, November 13, 2020
  • Case Law Update, Minnesota Bankruptcy Institute, October 8, 2020
  • Case Law Update, Agricultural Law & Bankruptcy Law Virtual Seminar, State Bar Association of North Dakota, June 3, 2020
  • Case Law Update, Minnesota Bankruptcy Institute, October 3, 2019
  • “Contracts in Bankruptcy,” Minnesota CLE, August 27, 2019
  • “I Take Exception to Your Discharge: Current Developments in Dischargeability Actions,” Minnesota State Bar Association, July 16, 2019.
  • Bankruptcy Case Law Update Webinar, May 31, 2019
  • Case Law Update, Minnesota Bankruptcy Institute, October 4, 2018.
  • "Business Bankruptcy Roundtable," Minnesota Bankruptcy Institute, October 24, 2017.
  • "New Law & Significant Issues in Bankruptcy: Asset Sales," Minnesota CLE, July 26, 2017.
  • "Effectively Utilizing Chapter 12 Bankruptcy as a Tool in Agricultural Workouts," Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota Webinar, March 8, 2017.
  • "What Can You Do With Property Nobody Wants? Vest: Opportunities for Debtors and Pitfalls for Secured Creditors," Minnesota State Bar Association Bankruptcy Section, February 21, 2017.

Professional Affiliations

  • Minnesota Asian Pacific American Bar Association

    Secretary (2022-2023)

  • Hennepin County Bar Association


  • American Bankruptcy Institute


  • Risk Management Association


  • Korean American Bar Association


  • Minnesota State Bar Association

    Bankruptcy Section: Pro bono Committee Member, Education Chair (2020-2022), Treasurer (2021-2022), and Secretary (2022-2023)
    Bankruptcy Bulletin, Co-Editor-in-Chief

  • Turnaround Management Association


  • Volunteer Lawyers Network

           Board of Directors
           Secretary (2020-2021)
           Treasurer/Vice Chair (2021-2022)
           Chair (2022-2023)

  • American Board of Certification

           Certified Business Bankruptcy Specialist 

  • American Bar Foundation


Community Involvement

  • Credit Abuse Resistance Education


  • Taft Pro Bono Committee