Sandra Guerra Thompson
Newell H. Blakely Chair
Sandra Guerra Thompson is the Newell H. Blakely Professor of Law and former Director of the Criminal Justice Institute. She is widely published in the areas of criminal law, evidence, the regulation of forensic evidence, and federal asset forfeiture. She has taught criminal law, evidence, and a variety of other courses. She believes in bringing the real world into the classroom and taking the classroom to the real world. Her students have toured maximum security prisons for over thirty years, attended federal sentencings, and gone on police ride-alongs. Her students produced conference materials for a statewide pretrial justice conference held at the Texas Capitol. They have written and edited a published book on wrongful convictions, and they presented at a meeting of a state task force on wrongful convictions in Fort Worth.
Professor Thompson has used her background as an educator to benefit the community, and her community work has enhanced her teaching and scholarly endeavors. She serves as Deputy Monitor for the federal consent decree in the ODonnell v. Harris County settlement, which has transformed Harris County’s misdemeanor bail system. She is also the Monitor for the Lomas v. Harris County consent decree regarding the integrity of the criminal charging process.
Her other community work includes chairing committees for the transition teams of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in 2016 and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg in 2017. In 2012, Houston Mayor Annise Parker appointed her as a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Houston Forensic Science Center, and she served as Vice Chair from 2015-2019. Her book Cops in Lab Coats: Curbing Wrongful Convictions through Independent Forensic Laboratories (Carolina Academic Press 2015) draws on her research and her experience on the board of the Houston lab, which is now widely regarded as one of the best crime labs anywhere. In 2009, she was appointed by Governor Rick Perry as the representative of the Texas public law schools on the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions.
Professor Thompson is an elected member of the American Law Institute since 1999 and was appointed to the Board of Advisors for the ALI’s sentencing reform project. In 2000, she served as Chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the Association of American Law Schools. Since 2019, she is an elected Council Member for the International Association of Evidence Science.
In 1996, she became the first Latina tenured law professor in the State of Texas. She has received several awards from the Hispanic Bar Association—Houston for her work mentoring law students. She received the 2020 Mayor’s Hispanic Heritage Education in the Community Award from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Prior to joining the UH Law faculty, she served as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney's Office where she practiced both trial and appellate criminal law from 1988-1990. During law school, she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. A native of Laredo, Texas, she was named a 2014 "Mustang Legend" by Laredo's J.W. Nixon High School, her alma mater.
She is the recipient of the University of Houston's Distinguished Leadership in Teaching Excellence Award in 2015, as well as the Teaching Excellence Award in 2003 and the Ethel Baker Faculty Award in 2000. She received the 2021 Faculty Distinction Award from the University of Houston Law Center Alumni Association.
B.A., Yale University; J.D., Yale University
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