"I guess it's really corny, but I just felt attracted to the idea of justice," she said. "Growing up in Laredo, I could see the injustices of political corruption and poverty and how it impacted people. I thought if the laws were enforced better, it would help people's lives. That idea just really motivated me to want to do something."
Guerra Thompson answered her hunger for justice with a career at the New York County district attorneys office and, for the last 21 years, as a professor at the UH Law Center where she directs the Criminal Justice Institute. The institute includes programs such as the Innocence Project, Southwest Juvenile Defender Service and Criminal Clinics, which work and advocate for vulnerable populations.
"To be a lawyer is a great honor in our society, and you need people out there to have a compassionate perspective on those populations and not allow them to be demonized," she said.
The thousands of students she's guided know her as a mentor interested in their goals, and, most recently, by her newest title: "Texas Primera," the first tenured Latina law professor in the state as bestowed by the Hispanic National Bar Association.
"I'm honored that it's me, it speaks well of UH, but why aren't there more?" she asked. "That's the question that bothers me. I don't want to be the first. This should have been done a long time ago, but the obstacles are still great."
Guerra Thompson has written articles on wrongful conviction, immigration and the death penalty, and a new book titled, "American Justice in the Age of Innocence." She says simply law professors should love the practice of law.
"I really do love the practice of law and I think about returning—if I weren't having so much fun here," she laughs.
Sandra Guerra Thompson is part of what's happening at the University of Houston. I'm Marisa Ramirez.
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