About Judge William K. Thomas

Judge Thomas

The Honorable William Kernahan Thomas began his legal career with the law firm of Harrison, Thomas, Spangenberg and Hull.  After a chance meeting with Governor Frank Lausche in 1950, Judge Thomas was asked to accept an appointment on the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas.  The Governor was concerned about the gambling syndicate-backed Pettibone Club in Bainbridge Township.  He wanted to appoint a judge who was free of political influence and who would have the courage to make a difficult decision based on the evidence.  Judge Thomas accepted the appointment, earning $4,700 a year (10% of the amount he was making in private practice).

Thus began a judicial career which led to Judge Thomas' appointment to the federal bench in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson.  Judge Thomas served as a jurist for 40 years.  He articulated his approach to his responsibilities when, as a state court judge, he released Sam Sheppard on bail pending trial, despite howls from the press and public: "I am dealing with this point as a Judge, and as a principle of law . . . . having in mind that this is an American court, still carrying out American principles of law, still following our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Judge Thomas presided over many high profile cases, including the pornography trial of Reuben Sturman, the RICO case against members of the Cleveland mafia and, perhaps most notably, settlement of the civil suit by the victims of the Kent State shooting against the National Guard and Governor Rhodes.  He was modest and humble, never letting "the robe" replace his commitment to fairness, freedom and equality.  William K. Thomas was a judge's judge.