Legal studies professor hopes to go from classroom to courtroom

Thomas Allison, University of La Verne assistant professor of legal studies, is running for a spot as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. The La Verne alumnus announced his candidacy in early February and will be campaigning until the general election in November. / photo by Drake Ingram
Thomas Allison, University of La Verne assistant professor of legal studies, is running for a spot as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. The La Verne alumnus announced his candidacy in early February and will be campaigning until the general election in November. / photo by Drake Ingram

Olivia Modarelli
Staff Writer

Assistant Professor of Legal Studies Thomas Allison may soon be trading in his position as professor for a seat on the bench. The University of La Verne professor is running for Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. 

The first election will be held on June 7.  Every registered voter in Los Angeles County can vote. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two will enter a run-off election in November. If elected, Allison will be installed as judge in January 2023.

“I think I have a unique perspective to bring to the bench,” said Allison, who said he has experienced poverty, domestic violence and homelessness in his own life growing up.

“Then with my education and legal knowledge, I think I am able to bridge a gap that not too many judges are able to bridge.”

Empathy is most important to Allison. 

“Professor Allison is very empathetic,” said Carolyn Bekhor, professor and program chair of legal studies. “But he’s also very smart about law — about how it works in society — so he can make good decisions that are fair.”

Bekhor added that Allison is a great listener.

“I think that if we all had a little bit more empathy and compassion for one another, we wouldn’t have most of the problems that we have now,” Allison said. 

His colleagues said his words do not exist in a vacuum — he puts tangible action toward solving those problems. 

“He took it upon himself to develop a system for us so that we can expand,” said Vickie Lobo, chief executive officer of Knock Knock Angels, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking as well as disabled veterans, get back on their feet in times of crisis. 

Lobo said that Allison, who works as a legal advisor for Knock Knock Angels, helped the company open a whole new satellite chapter in Colorado.

Allison said he wants to educate people on the law and their rights. He said there is a disconnect between what people think happens in court and what actually happens. For example, he’s observed through his work as pro tempore judge that most people do not have adequate knowledge about the legal process going into the courtroom. He currently works for traffic court in West Covina and El Monte. 

“When I’m on the bench I am intent on making sure … people understand the process and the outcome and how it impacts their lives before they agree or sign up to do anything,” Allison said. 

As someone with a background in law and education, he said he believes he would bring a unique perspective, should he win the judge post. 

“Having students … three days a week in the classroom better allows me to practice communicating really complicated legal processes and information into common everyday terms that people can understand,” Allison said.  

Allison said that more of an emphasis should be placed on civics in school, but he also thinks that the very complicated legal system needs to make itself more accessible. 

“When you’re a professor, you’re always looking to help your students be successful and to educate your students in how to be ethical and successful at the same time,” President Devorah Lieberman said. “I’ve seen that over and over in Thomas’ behavior, so I believe that will be a core value in his position as judge.” 

Lieberman said Allison is always looking for ways he can help others — whether that be his family, his friends, the University or the community.

Olivia Modarelli can be reached at olivia.modarelli@laverne.edu.

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Olivia Modarelli, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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Drake Ingram, a junior criminology major and photography minor, is a staff photographer for the Campus Times.

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