Karl J. Johnson

Associate Minneapolis


Karl Johnson is certified as a Business Bankruptcy Specialist by the American Board of Certification. Only four attorneys in Minnesota hold this certification.

Karl has represented debtors and secured and unsecured creditors in bankruptcy cases under chapters 7, 11, 12, and 13. He has also represented trustees in bankruptcy cases under chapters 7 and 13.

His clients include individuals, small and large businesses, and institutional creditors. Karl also has experience drafting loan documents, litigating creditor-debtor and inter-creditor disputes, debt collection, and defending FDCPA actions.

Karl has appeared as attorney of record in thousands of bankruptcy cases and has prevailed on multiple issues of first impression. Karl represented the debtor in the first chapter 11 plan confirmed under the new subchapter V created by the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019. He has successfully defended two appeals, one before the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota and the other before the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Eighth Circuit. Karl previously clerked for the Chief Bankruptcy Judge the Hon. Gregory F. Kishel, District of Minnesota and was staff counsel to the Standing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee for the District of Minnesota.

Karl is dedicated to pro bono and access to justice. Karl is on the board of directors and has held the positions of Secretary, Treasurer, and Vice-Chair of Volunteer Lawyers Network, a nonprofit organization that connects volunteer attorneys with pro bono clients. In 2018, Karl received the Raeder Larson Public Service Award for his pro bono efforts.

Karl regularly publishes and lectures on bankruptcy issues. Karl is also conversational in the Korean language.


  • 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