Professor Franita Tolson elected to American Law Institute
Leslie Ridgeway • August 15, 2022
Tolson applauds opportunity to make positive impact on election law
Professor Franita Tolson has been elected as one of 60 new members to the American Law Institute, bringing the number of USC Gould School of Law professors among the ALI membership to 14.
Tolson, the George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Chair in Law, says she’s excited to contribute her expertise to the ALI’s mission of simplifying and clarifying the law to better adapt it to society’s needs. New members are elected via nomination by current members.
“The American Law Institute provides a vehicle to see our research in action,” says Tolson. “I have testified before Congress, hoping to influence policy, but membership in the ALI can be more impactful in some ways. The ALI is a collaboration – it’s not just about your research and ideas.”
The American Law Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization which, according to its website, encourages and performs scholarly and scientific legal work. ALI develops Institute projects, categorized as Restatements, Codes, or Principles, in hopes of influencing courts and lawmakers.
Tolson sees her election as an opportunity to advocate on behalf of groups that have been historically discriminated against, and to promote diverse viewpoints.
“As a law professor of color, and as a woman, I take that very seriously,” she says.
A recent ALI action involves election law, one of Tolson’s main areas of scholarship and research. In late April, a diverse group of members recommended reforms to the Electoral Count Act of 1887, with the House select committee on the Jan. 6 insurrection investigating efforts to exploit gaps in the act.
Illustrating the influence of ALI, in late July a bipartisan group of senators outlined proposed changes to the act that would clarify the vice president’s role in counting Electoral College votes and raise the bar for challenging a state’s electoral votes.
“I hope to become involved with projects that lawmakers and courts will take notice of,” Tolson says. “I want my contribution to be meaningful enough to have some impact, and I view my involvement as a way to make a positive contribution to election law.”