Franita Tolson testifying on voting rights at a Senate hearing in 2021
I am very pleased to announce that April 7 marks the official first day of Professor Franita Tolson’s leadership as Co-Dean of the law school. Dean Tolson not only represents the standard of excellence in her scholarly field, but also exemplifies the commitment to service that is a hallmark of our USC Gould community.
She is a national thought leader and dialogue shaper — and here at Gould, a supportive professor and wonderful colleague. Just last week, she was honored as the holder of the George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Chair in Law.
One of the most recognizable and foremost scholars in election law, Dean Tolson has been published in nearly every top law journal across the country. Her research examines a breadth of critical topics including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the Elections Clause, gerrymandering, and other Constitutional issues.
Dean Tolson is frequently invited to speak before the U.S. Congress on voting rights and voting access. In 2021, she testified before Senate and House committees three times in a 10-week span. She also authored a legal analysis for a Constitutional amendment, introduced by two senators, aimed at enshrining a right to vote. In addition, major media networks and news publications often seek Dean Tolson’s expertise as an election analyst and commentator.
Franita Tolson with Andrew Guzman
From 2019 to 2022, she served as the law school’s Vice Dean. In that time, she co-chaired the Academic Affairs subcommittee that developed our Race, Racism, and the Law course, a first-of-its-kind required course among the top law schools nationwide. As Vice Dean, she was instrumental in the launch of Gould’s new Visiting Assistant Professor program, which helps create a pipeline for prospective law faculty, including many from underrepresented backgrounds. Most importantly, her guidance and foresight were indispensable in the face of the pandemic, as we worked to prioritize community safety, while preserving our educational and research mission.
Prior to joining USC Gould in 2017, Dean 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. Following law school at the University of Chicago, 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.
During this period of transition, Dean Tolson’s knowledge and experience will be essential to the continuing success and growth of the law school. I am enormously appreciative of Dean Tolson’s willingness to step into this vital role, and I look forward to all of the incredible achievements on the horizon under her leadership.
Dean and Carl Mason Franklin Chair in Law, and Professor of Law and Political Science