About Judge William K. 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
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.