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Franita Tolson
USC Gould School of Law

Franita Tolson

George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Chair in Law

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699 Exposition Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90089-0074 USA Room: 402
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Last Updated: August 10, 2022




Franita Tolson is the George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Chair in Law at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. She also holds a courtesy faculty appointment in the Political Science and International Relations Department at the USC Dornsife College of Letter, Arts and Sciences.

Her scholarship and teaching focus on the areas of election law, constitutional law, legal history, and employment discrimination. She has written on a wide range of topics including partisan gerrymandering, political parties, the Elections Clause, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

Her research has appeared or will appear in leading law reviews including the Yale Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, California Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Vanderbilt Law Review. Tolson is one of the coauthors of the leading election law casebook, The Law of Democracy (Foundation Press, 6th ed., forthcoming 2022). Her forthcoming book, In Congress We Trust?: Enforcing Voting Rights from the Founding to the Jim Crow Era, will be published in 2023 by Cambridge University Press.

As a nationally recognized expert in election law, Tolson has written for or appeared as a commentator for various mass media outlets including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Bloomberg Law. She has testified before Congress numerous times on voting rights issues. She has also authored a legal analysis for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Richard Durbin, that would explicitly protect the right to vote. During the fall of 2020, Tolson worked as an election law analyst for CNN. She currently co-hosts an election themed podcast, Free and Fair with Franita and Foley, with Ned Foley of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Prior to joining USC, Tolson was the Betty T. Ferguson Professor of Voting Rights at Florida State University College of Law and a visiting assistant professor at Northwestern University School of Law. Before entering academia, she clerked for the Honorable Ann Claire Williams of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the Honorable Ruben Castillo of the Northern District of Illinois.

Tolson is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, where she was the Walter V. Schaefer Visiting Professor of Law during the Spring 2021 academic quarter.

Works in Progress

  • In the People We Trust?: Expanding Voting Rights from the Progressive Era to the Present
  • Reinventing Federalism?: The Status of Madison’s Constitution after the Reconstruction Amendments 
  • The Legislative Record
  • De Minimis Constitutional Violations

Books

  • The Law of Democracy (Foundation Press, 6th ed, forthcoming 2022) (with Samuel Issacharoff, Pamela Karlan, Richard Pildes, and Nathaniel Persily).
  • In Congress We Trust?: Enforcing Voting Rights from the Founding to the Jim Crow Era, (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2023).

Articles and Book Chapters

  • "'In Whom is the Right of Suffrage?': The Reconstruction Acts as Sources of Constitutional Meaning," University of Pennsylvania Law Review 169 (2021): 211. - (SSRN)
  • "Countering the Real Countermajoritarian Difficulty," California Law Review 109 (2021): 2381 (response to Pamela Karlan, "The New Countermajoritarian Difficulty"). - (SSRN)
  • "The Spectrum of Congressional Authority over Elections," Boston University Law Review 99 (2019) 317. - (Hein) - (SSRN)
  • "Election Law “Federalism” and the Limits of the Antidiscrimination Framework," William & Mary Law Review 59 (2018) 2211.  - (Hein) - (SSRN)
  • “The Equal Sovereignty Principle as Federalism Sub-Doctrine: A Reassessment of Shelby County v. Holder,” in Controversies in American Federalism and Public Policy, edited by Christopher P. Banks, 171-186 (Routledge, 2018).
  • “Offering a New Vision for Equal Protection: The Story of Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections,” in Election Law Stories, edited by Joshua A. Douglas and Eugene D. Mazo, 63-86 (Foundation Press, 2016).
  • “What is Abridgment? A Critique of Two Section Twos.” Alabama Law Review 67 (2016): 433. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “Introduction: The Law of Democracy at a Crossroads: Reflecting on Fifty Years of Voting Rights and the Judicial Regulation of the Political Thicket.” Florida State University Law Review 43 (2016): 345. - (Hein) - (www)
  • “The Federalism Implications of Campaign Finance Regulation.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online 164 (2016): 247. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “Protecting Political Participation through the Voter Qualifications Clause of Article I.” Boston College Law Review 56 (2015): 159. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “Congressional Authority to Protect Voting Rights After Shelby County and Arizona Inter Tribal.” Election Law Journal 13 (2014): 322. - (SSRN) - (www)
  • “The Constitutional Structure of Voting Rights Enforcement.” Washington Law Review 89 (2014): 379. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “The Union as a Safeguard Against Faction: Congressional Gridlock as State Empowerment.” Notre Dame Law Review 88 (2013): 2267. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “Second-Order Diverse in Name Only?: Sovereign Authority in Disaggregated Institutions.” Tulsa Law Review 48 (2013) 455. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “Benign Partisanship.” Notre Dame Law Review 88 (2012): 395. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “Reinventing Sovereignty?: Federalism as a Constraint on the Voting Rights Act.” Vanderbilt Law Review 65 (2012): 1195. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “Partisan Gerrymandering as a Safeguard of Federalism.” Utah Law Review 2010 (2010): 859. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “The Boundaries of Litigating Unconscious Discrimination: Firm-Based Remedies in Response to a Hostile Judiciary.” Delaware Journal of Corporate Law 33 (2008): 347. - (SSRN) - (Hein)
  • “Increasing the Quantity and the Quality of the African-American Vote: Lessons for 2008 and Beyond.” Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy 10 (2008): 313. - (SSRN) - (Hein)

FACULTY IN THE NEWS

India Education Diary
September 27, 2022
Re: Andrew T. Guzman

Dean Andrew Guzman was quoted about the USC Gould JD Class Of 2025. “This is an important time to be studying law, as there is no profession that is more essential to the success of democracy,” he said. “Even the smallest legal changes can affect the lives of so many.”

RECENT SCHOLARSHIP

Felipe Jiménez
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"Legal Positivism for Legal Officials," Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence.

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"Tribal Water Rights and Tribal Health: The Klamath Tribes and the Navajo Nation During the COVID-19 Pandemic," St. Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy (Forthcoming 2023).

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