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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
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Alameda County Superior CourtCandidate for Judge, Seat 1

Photo of Barbara Thomas

Barbara Thomas

Victims' Rights Attorney
256,107 votes (47.15%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • I promise to professionally and expeditiously handle matters that come before me with fairness and integrity.
  • I will will provide equal access to the Court regardless of color, money, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, political or other alignments. All will be treated with dignity & respect.
  • Persons called to jury duty will have their needs fairly addressed. If they cannot serve, they will be courteously and promptly released.



Profession:Victims' Rights Attorney
Victims' Rights Attorney, Self-Employed (2014–current)
Attorney, Self (1992–2014)
Attorney, Civil litigation, Meyer & Mitchell (1990–1992)
City Councilmember/Vice Mayor, City of Alameda — Elected position (1987–1991)
Representative for City of Alameda, Alameda County Solid Waste Authority — Appointed position (1989–1991)
Representative for the City of Alameda, Alameda County Airport Landuse Commission — Appointed position (1989–1991)
Representative for the City of Alameda, Alameda County Employment Training And Employment Board & Community Action PRogram — Appointed position (1987–1990)


UC Hastings College of the Law Juris Doctor, Law (1982)
UC Berkeley Bachelor of Arts, Economics (1979)

Community Activities

Lifemember, Alameda Humane Society (2015–current)
Alaska Native, United States Department of the Interior - Bureau of Indian Affairs (1973–current)
Attorney, California State Bar Association (1988–current)


I was born in Oakland and attended school in Alameda, the University of California and Hastings College of Law.

I ran for election to the Alameda City Council to force developers to provide the civic improvements they had promised to gain approvals for their developments but were refusing to provide.  I proposed a construction moratorium resulting in the provision of acreage for the Bay Farm Island School, Tillman Park, Harrington Soccer field, additions to the Shoreline trail, and a new Fire Station and fire truck.  I tried to bring the leases for the City’s marinas into contracts that were fair.  Land owned by the City was leased to commercial enterprises for 100 years for next to nothing; the lease for the entire Ballena Bay Isle ( earned the City $100,000 per year.  Ballena Bay makes of millions of dollars per year, with annual rent for only a few berths covering the $100,000.  I led the City’s effort to become a profit sharing partner in leases, to use the tens of millions per year to fund schools, build affordable housing, provide subsidies for low income persons for rents or home repairs, maintain parks, public works, and fund city workers.  Most profits still go to private entities.  When I took office the City Manager earned $150,000 per annum, the City Attorney $145,000, and the City Clerk $63,000.  The Clerk has traditionally been a position held by women.  However it requires legal training, supervisory skills, and like the Registrar of Voters, running City Elections. The lowest Department head - Librarian, also a female was paid $95,000.  As the only woman on the Council I was able to get the votes to increase the Clerk’s pay to the minimum paid a Department Head. The Statewide City Clerk’s Association recognized my efforts promote equal pay for equal responsibility and recognizing the skills used in the Clerk’s position.

I went to law school to help the less fortunate.  People with money have access to the courts,   those who cannot pay are denied access.  During law school I volunteered at a West Oakland evening law clinic providing legal services to the poor.  I discovered many cannot afford to use the courts to resolve disputes, to keep a driver’s license, or to fight an eviction.  I learned early on that the highest and best use of my volunteer time was to provide legal service to those who could not pay.  When I was accepted into law school, I promised to help any Native American who needed legal services to the best of my ability with whatever resources I had. And my contacts at the Intertribal Friendship House kept me busy.   I have provided hundreds of hours of legal volunteer time to those in need.

 My career includes over 35 serious civil and criminal trials. I have represented juveniles in both dependency and delinquency proceedings.   One 13 year old client charged with murder after he got on a bus with 7 older teenagers, one of whom later killed someone.  His presence was enough for a finding of murder, which will follow him and society for the rest of his life.   With juveniles, once the court makes a serious “Finding” it takes over the child’s custody. It could have of “Found” him guilty of something that could have been sealed upon adulthood if he did not engage in any more such activity. His job and life prospects are now limited forever.

One lady brandished a knife and tried to slash her husband’s tires.  Upon arrest and prosecution by the District Attorney she could not make bail.  The DA did not bother to check their own records that showed they refused to charge the husband a year earlier when he kicked her in the stomach. She was 7 months pregnant and had to be hospitalized to save the baby.   The DA dismissed the case on the day of trial, nearly 3 months after her arrest.  Her main concern was that Child Protective Services would take her children.  She was fortunate and had a family member who stepped up.  It was a devastating misuse of power. 

I have spent hundreds of hours a year providing legal services to those who could not pay.  I have practiced in the Family Law courts on behalf of indigents helping them to get dissolutions at no charge.  My concern for the environment has led me to bring Writs under the California Environmental Quality Act to preserve the environment, as well as enforce Voter’s Rights.  

Over time I became disturbed at the lack enforcement of victim’s rights as did many others. These shortcomings resulted in the initiative known as Marsy’s Law put on the ballot in 2008.  It was overwhelmingly adopted as part of California’s constitution.  Still, it had to be enforced once enacted.  That is where I am focusing my efforts at this time. 

I come from a simple background and was the first to go to college ever. My maternal grandparents left the Kansas Dust bowl and came to the Tenderloin in San Francisco.  My Grandfather drove a bus for the SF school district while raising 6 boys and 4 girls.  My mother’s favorite privilege growing up was when it was her turn to get the weekly bath water first, which rotated. On the paternal side all were subsistence fishermen in Alaska.  Too poor to care for their 12 children, my grandmother, the oldest, was left at the orphanage in Kodiak, where she was raised.


My greatest joys and achievements are my two children.  As a single parent I put both through college, my daughter Teri, graduated from UCLA and my son, Dennis, graduated from UC Davis.  Being a parent has made clear the intricacies of teaching fairness and equality to all regardless of superficial attributes. 


I hope to bring my life, civic and legal experience to the bench.  The  judicial system in Alameda County works but can be improved.  It has competent judges, served by competent attorneys.

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Armando G. Cuellar, Jr. Judge of the Superior Court
  • Nancy K.D.Lemon, Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall School of Law) UC Berkeley,Co-Founder and Legal Dir, Family Violence Appel
  • Jeffrey Horner, Judge of the Superior Court

Organizations (1)

  • Alameda Green Party (June 2016 Primary)

Elected Officials (1)

  • Trish Herrera-Spencer, Mayor City of Alameda

Questions & Answers

Questions from The League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and California Counts, a public media collaboration. (1)

Many people feel that a backlog of cases has led to a situation where people cannot get reasonable access to the civil justice system. Do you believe that there is a problem with access? Please explain in detail and indicate whether or not you would support expanding court hours.
Answer from Barbara Thomas:

1.  There are recent attempts to eliminate the backlog of cases being implemented by the Court.  Direct Filing of cases in Civil Departments, and more judges in "Pods" dedicated to specific areas of law, such as Family Law, and Probate, have been implemented. There is a new Computer system "Odessey" being implemented that has not yet been  totally intergrated for use.  It will take time to see how effective these are.  One big restriction on access to the courts, is that it costs a great deal of money to hire attorneys, for attorneys to schedule cases on their own calendars, and to hire experts.  Criminal cases suffer the same scheduling delays.  In the overall picture, the State of California appears to have backed off its position that Alameda County had too many courts, and was to be a "donor" court for counties such as Riverside that have longer delays. Donor, meaning give up 14 Judges to other counties.  Progress is bring made, but for persons needing the courts to resolve problems, there are still too many delays.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Judicial candidates are precluded from taking positions on items that might come before the courts.  

I am not a politician, nor entrenched in political parties or their issues.   I have dedicated my life to family and community.  While an elected official I regularly taught "City Council" for school children who toured City Hall.  Children were selected to be Mayor, Council members, City Attorney, City Clerk, City Manager.  And if needed Police or Fire Chief.  The remaining class members were divided into two groups: one to take the pro side on an issue, the remaining to take the opposing side.   The teachers and I would pick issues that would interest children of the specific age group present.  Topics that were actually before the City Council such as Street repairs, Safety, Parks, would be addressed.   The Pro side would provide speakers who went to the Podium and spoke to their "elected" officials.  Then the opposing side would have its turn.  The Council would discuss issues with the various Officials being prompted in their roles. Then the "Council" voted.  It was a great learning experience showing how local government works.  I always pointed out the various educational levels required, and salaries paid for the officials so that the children would see potential career paths. 

I was selected and hired by then Alamdeda County Supervisor Gail Steele to represent neglected and abused children who were in Alameda County, but were also involved with courts in other counties.  This work was paid for by Alameda County.   I frequently visited clients in their homes, juvenile hall, foster homes, and jail.  I was aghast at the living conditions that society believes are better than the children's former family homes.  My complaints resulted in at least one foster home being dropped from the Court's acceptable list.  Children were stacked 4 to a  room by sex.  A "Home" can have a coed population with “appropriate safeguards” and be paid up to $4-6,000 per month for special needs children.  Homes with 10-12 special needs children were not unusual.  I found my special needs pre-teen female in a room with 3 others, directly across from a room with teenage boys, and being given “prescribed medications” by untrained, staff.  There were no doors on the bedrooms, thus no privacy at an age where it is sorely needed, and no assurances that a child received properly prescribed medications by qualified staff.  Basic human rights that were being overlooked. 

Early on I realized that other than aforementioned types of activities, the highest and best use of my volunteer time was as an attorney providing competent legal services to those who could not afford them.  I sat on Boards such as Alameda County Training and Employment Board-ACAP and discovered that staff seemed to only want my vote to ratify that which they had already determined to do.  Other Board members and any elected official or attorney could provide that "Vote".   I chose to provide precise legal help to those in need and unable to pay.  I provided hundreds of hours of low cost or free legal services to those with criminal cases, family law cases, and civil issues such as eviction and worked to help restore prisoners rights.

As I became more experienced, I mentored young female attorneys with whom I came in contact.  Courtroom work can be extremely brutal at times.  I often would have cases with 5 or more defendants, and I would be the only woman attorney for the entire case.    Young female attorneys, often were shocked and dismayed when taken to task by the Judges, prosecutors, defendants, and even a few other attorneys.  I routinely spoke with them after watching the exchanges, and assured them it was just part of the courtroom learning experience.  I assured them that their legal performance was right on, and it would get easier (not better) as they gained experience.

 I believe in an inclusive society that allows all equal access to education, courts, religious and other beliefs, work, and pursuit of happiness.  A few complain that Democracy and the Courts are failing its citizens.  However,  it is better than any of the alternatives.  I have witnessed much in Alameda County: Walking from school to watch JFK after flying into the Naval Air Station, listening to Supervisor Diane Feinstein announce the murders of Mayor Moscone and Sup. Harvey Milk, the filling of the SF Bay, the collapse of the Cypress Structure, the financial ups and downs of the real estate market and the economy, demographic shifts, the changing of our environment by natural causes, and technology.   The Bay Area survives as one of the most beautiful, diverse and wonderful places in the world to live.  I am glad to have been born here, and to have raised my family here.  The practice of law has been good to me.   If given the chance, I will continue to give back to the community with the wisdom I have learned while living here to try to help persons who need the assistance of the courts in their lives.


Leaders I look to:

Winston Churchill: “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

And  "Never, never, never give up.” 


Sitting Bull:   

“For us, warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who can not provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity.”

Maya Angelou: 

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage. ---  One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” 



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