Thompson, an O’Dowd parent, has practiced law for over 25 years and currently handles felony jury trials and multiple co-defendant homicide trials. Previously she served as the Presiding Judge of the Alameda County Juvenile Court and as Supervising Judge of the Wiley Manual Courthouse. In 2011, she was appointed by President Obama and sworn in to serve as Practitioner Member of the Coordinating Council in Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
She lectures nationally, including for the Ethnic Studies department at UC Berkeley, and has served as a legal commentator for the media. She was recently featured in the documentary film In the Red, which about transformation and growing up poor, young and black in America.
Thompson said she never allowed her struggles to deter her from achieving her goal of attending college and becoming a lawyer. She earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from UC Berkeley and graduated from the university’s Boalt Hall School of Law.
“You never know what experiences you are having now, or whatever hardship you might encounter, might actually turn out to be your greatest asset,” she said.
She encouraged students to consider what social justice issues are important to them, and then figure out how they can best advocate for positive change in the community. “You are all blessed with talents and how are you going to share those talents to make somebody else’s situation is better,” she said.
Educating oneself about the world’s most pressing issues is paramount, she said.
“Get educated and read the opinions of people you disagree with. Because until you understand what their perspective is, you’re not going to be effective in dealing with the issues,” she said.