Thomas A. Willis

Partner

Thomas A. Willis is a partner specializing in election, redistricting, and campaign finance law. 

He is campaign counsel for Governor Gavin Newsom and served in the same role for the previous two Democratic Governors. He also represents the California Democratic Party.

He also has advised many ballot measure committees, including the Governor’s committees for Propositions 1 and 2 and Airbnb’s committee opposing San Francisco’s Measure F, and the San Francisco Giants’ committees in support of Measure D (Mission Rock).  

Mr. Willis has litigated a number of important election law, redistricting and campaign finance cases, including successfully defending the California Legislature’s 2011 redistricting plan. Nadler v. Schwarzenegger, 137 Cal. App. 4th 1327 (2006); Cano v. Davis, 191 F. Supp. 2d 1135 (C.D. Cal. 2001); 211 F. Supp. 2d 1208 (C.D. Cal. 2002), aff’d., 537 U.S. 1100 (2003). Most recently, he successfully defended in the trial and appellate court the City of Los Angeles’ redistricting plan. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 88 F. Supp. 3d 1140 (C.D. Cal. 2015), aff’d 908 F.3d 1175 (9th Cir. 2018).

His other notable cases include McDonough v. Superior Court, 204 Cal. App. 4th 1169 (2012) (challenge to ballot question for San Jose pension initiative); Americans for Safe Access v. County of Alameda, 174 Cal. App. 4th 1287 (2009) (defending county’s recount procedures); Lindelli v. Town of San Anselmo, 111 Cal. App. 4th 1099 (2003) (contesting use of referendum for interim contract); People ex rel. Found. for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights v. Duque, 105 Cal. App. 4th 259 (2003) (defending members of CPUC from quo warranto).  

Mr. Willis is an expert on the California Voting Rights Act and advises a number of municipalities on compliance under the Act’s requirements.  

Mr. Willis also advises state and local agencies on redistricting, election law, conflicts of interest, and initiatives and referenda.  Those clients have included the Governor’s Office, the State Assembly, the City of Oakland, the City of Richmond, the City of Redwood City, and San Francisco Unified School District.  Mr. Willis also represents clients before the Federal Elections Commission, the California Fair Political Practices Commission, and the San Francisco Ethics Commission.  He advises candidates, state and local agencies, campaign committees, initiative and referendum committees, corporations and nonprofits about these laws and the electoral process, including election procedures.

Representative Highlights

Results described below were dependent on the facts of that particular case. Prior results do not guarantee or predict similar outcomes.

  • Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 88 F. Supp. 3d 1140 (C.D. Cal. 2015) (on appeal).  Successfully defended the City of Los Angeles’s 2012 Redistricting Ordinance against a lawsuit alleging that district boundaries violated the Federal and State Constitutions, and the Los Angeles City Charter.
  • Nadler v. Schwarzenegger, 137 Cal. App. 4th 1327 (2006).  Successfully defended the State’s 2001 redistricting plan against a lawsuit challenging the state legislative plans on the grounds that they violated the California Constitution.
  • Our Children, Our Future v. Bowen, Sacramento Superior Court, No. 34-2012-80001194 (2012).  Defended Proposition 30 against pre-election challenge to its placement on the ballot.
  • McDonough v. Superior Court, 204 Cal. App. 4th 1169 (2012).  Represented opponents of the City of San Jose’s Measure B in successful ballot pamphlet litigation striking partisan and prejudicial portions of the City’s ballot title and question.
  • Americans for Safe Access v. County of Alameda, 174 Cal. App. 4th 1287 (2009).  Defended the County of Alameda’s recount procedures.
  • Lindelli v. Town of San Anselmo, 111 Cal. App. 4th 1099 (2003).  Successfully challenged an interim contract approved by a municipality before a referendum election could take place.
  • People ex rel. Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights v. Duque, 105 Cal. App. 4th 259 (2003).  Won reversal of trial court ruling that would have required a commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission to forfeit his office on the basis of a conflict of interest.
  • Cano v. Davis, 191 F. Supp. 2d 1135 (C.D. Cal. 2001), aff’d., 537 U.S. 1100 (2003). Successfully defended the State’s redistricting plan.  

Education

  • Duke University, B.A., 1987
  • University of Virginia School of Law, J.D., 1992

Admissions

  • California