Retired Canyon Lake Judge publishing his first book

As reported in The Friday Flier


Canyon Lake resident Mark Johnson, a retired judge with an illustrious legal and military background, is now turned author and is publishing his first book, “Scars & Strife,” which is set for release on May 21. With the publication of the book, Mark is beginning a new chapter in his life.

Before settling into the tranquil life of Canyon Lake, Mark served as a judge for 15 years, a position he was appointed to by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. His legal career spanned over 25 years, paralleled by a 28-year service as an Army officer. For approximately eight years he was on active duty military service and the remainder was in the Army Reserves, retiring as a Colonel in 2013.

Mark moved to Canyon Lake in August 2022 following a personal transition period. He was seeking a safe and welcoming environment for him and his daughter Erica. Erica wanted a house with a lake view and they found just that. Judge Johnson was drawn to the area’s beauty and the sense of community among its residents.

Mark also brought his new wife of seven years, Kim, and her son Cody to Canyon Lake. Their blended family loves the outdoor activities that Canyon Lake has to offer. The family’s enthusiasm for outdoor activities rejuvenated his interest in enjoying the lake and its facilities.

“What is there not to love about Canyon Lake?,” Mark said. “Great people live here, people who care for and look out for their neighbors, people who love and support America. Our lake is beautiful and has some of the best fishing in the state. The community is safe. Many communities nowadays are not, and frankly, that lack of security is only getting worse. Canyon Lake is my first choice for a place to live.”

Mark’s story is one of resilience, service, and dedication to his community, both as a legal professional and as a military officer. Now, as a resident of Canyon Lake, he brings his wealth of experience and a heart full of stories to share.

One of Mark’s most notable contributions was being a part of establishing the Riverside County Veterans Court, aimed at rehabilitating veterans facing legal challenges. This program reflects his deep understanding and respect for veterans, stemming from his own military experience and his tenure as an Iraq War veteran.

“It is a collaborative effort of representatives from the Veterans Administration, the District Attorney, the defense bar, law enforcement and the court,” he said. “I presided over Veterans Court for eight years. Those years were my best on the bench.”

A judge often feels like people are being pushed through the system, often gets disillusioned after hearing hundreds of cases in a week, Mark said.

“Veterans Court was different,” he said. “I had far less people on probation in my court and a great team of professionals to help our veterans heal.”

As Mark now embarks on his journey as an author, he continues to advocate for veterans’ well-being and aims to utilize his writing as a means to honor and support those who have served.

“I wanted to tell our military and veterans how much I love them,” Mark said. “The best people sign up for the military. I feel, however, that our service members are unappreciated. We ship them off to God-awful places overseas based on every blow of the political winds, then want to rush them home when the fight drags on. I have seen real damage to Americans from these cavalier attitudes. All of it would stop quickly if our congressional representatives were the first to be shipped overseas. I wanted to introduce Americans to their soldiers. We have the best military with the best people in the world.”

Mark and Kim Johnson are all smiles on their wedding day. Mark, a retired judge, has turned author and his book “Scars and Strife” is set for release in May. Photos provided by Mark Johnson

The drive to give back to the veteran community and shed light on their struggles led Mark to author “Scars & Strife,” a book that narrates the poignant realities faced by military personnel and veterans.

The book, which took three years to complete, aims to bridge the gap between the general public and the often-unseen challenges of military service. Mark’s narrative is a tribute to the valor and sacrifices of service members, encapsulated through the experiences of the book’s protagonist, Randy Andrews.

“I wrote Scars and Strife to honor our military veterans,” Mark said. “I served a one-year deployment to Iraq from 2003 to 2004. I have seen young Americans killed and horribly maimed. I have struggled with many of the same mental health challenges plaguing the veterans in my court.”

“Scars & Strife” character Randy Andrews is an example of a flawed hero. The book includes things that Mark experienced overseas or were told to him by veterans in his court. When Mark had a veteran defendant before him in court he would be profuse with praise for their service.

“I am not looking at a defendant or an inmate,” he said. “I am looking at a hero, someone like those who had protected my rear end when I was on the road in Baghdad. I always believed what I said. I was never any better than anyone who stood before me.”

Mark and Kim worked alongside veterans who were convicted of felonies. Mark wanted the veterans to understand that his job was to gain trust from them so he could get them the help needed and regain their honor. Volunteering alongside the veterans, the two served at community service projects, cleaned trash in parks, volunteered at animal shelters, and found homeless veterans to work with on getting them a place to live.

“Scars and Strife” preorders are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Retired Canyon Lake Judge publishing his first book