CPF Fellow Martha Escutia Headshot
Center for the Political Future

Spring 2023 Fellow

As a first generation scholar to graduate from high school, college and law school in her immigrant family, former State Senator Martha Escutia is living proof that education is the great equalizer in American society.

Senator Escutia joined the University of Southern California in 2013, and currently serves as Vice President for State Government Relations and Special Counsel. She provides the university strategic advice to advance its institutional mission and academic interests. Prior to joining USC, Senator Escutia was in private practice as a founding partner of The Senators Firm and a partner in the national law firm of Manatt Phelps and Phillips.

During her 14 year legislative career (1992-2006), Senator Escutia became the first woman to chair both the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees. She distinguished herself for tackling tough problems and developing innovative solutions to promote broadband access; encouraging environmental remedies in transportation and energy infrastructure; banning junk foods from schools; and ensuring the judiciary was accessible to all litigants. The California Supreme Court honored her with its “Commitment to Justice” award for her exemplary service to the law and its citizens.

Senator Escutia is a Lecturer in Law at the USC Gould School of Law, where she teaches Environmental Justice and its Civil Rights Legal Implications. Her community work includes establishing Mock Trial programs in several Eastside high schools, coaching the students to compete at the LA County Mock Trial competitions.

Senator Escutia received her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law School. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Study Group: A Latina in Politics: Power Moves (and I Don’t Mean Salsa Dancing)

“Power unused is power abused.” — Speaker Willie Brown, 1993

This study group discussed real world examples of key legislation passed in California, which had a national impact. Focus went beyond the typical legislative drafting and analysis and concentrated on the compromises and “power” moves which need to be made to keep a bill alive. Students studied an introduced bill and monitored it in real-time throughout the semester. Whenever possible, the author of that bill attended the study group discussion.

Spring 2023 Semester Recap

Group Photo of CPF Fellow Martha Escutia's Spring 2023 Study Group
Group Photo of CPF Fellow Martha Escutia’s Spring 2023 Study Group

Martha Escutia said this about her experience at USC’s Center for the Political Future: “I appreciate the USC Center for the Political Future for bringing in Fellows like myself who have a different type of experience. My experience was very hands-on having been a former state legislator. CPF brings a lot of people with incredible experience, and that only helps the students come out of USC with a better understanding of politics.”

USC students in Martha’s study group shared this about their experience:

“My study group with Martha Escutia was truly one of the highlights of my semester. Every Thursday afternoon, I looked forward to learning more about the inner workings of our California legislature and the history of key legislation. I enjoyed Martha’s insightful stories on the ‘power moves’ necessary to get important legislation passed. She was a fierce warrior for the people of California, but is an even greater mentor and role model to her students.”


“My favorite part of this study group was leaving each session feeling inspired by the stories Martha told us. Her experiences were so unique, funny, and memorable that I was always eager to share her power moves with my friends. As a woman of color, I truly resonated with a lot of Martha’s struggles and admired how she persevered through it all. It was an honor to learn so much from someone with so many accomplishments.”

Senator Escutia shared her thoughts on the importance of politics, her first political experience, and her advice for having respectful political discourse in her “Quick Takes: Q&A with CPF Fellow Martha Escutia” video.