Kentucky Court of Justice
Campbell County Judge Karen A. Thomas elected president of Kentucky District Judges Association
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Chief Regional District Judge Karen A. Thomas, who serves Campbell County, has been elected to a second term as president of the Kentucky District Judges Association. Judge Thomas was elected to serve as president by her fellow judges at the 2009 District Judges Fall College held Oct. 18-21 at Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz. Her term as president is two years.
“The district judges’ election of Judge Thomas to a second term as president of their association is a testament to their confidence in her knowledge and leadership ability,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said. “I look forward to working with her on issues that are significant to district judges and the judiciary as a whole.”
As president of the District Judges Association, Judge Thomas administers the business of the association, which is comprised of the state’s 116 District Court judges. Her role as president includes establishing committees and presiding over committee meetings, monitoring legislation affecting the courts, serving as spokeswoman for the district judges and presiding at judicial conferences held for district judges.
“It is a highlight of my judicial career to serve the district judges of the commonwealth as their president,” Judge Thomas said. “I greatly admire the work of my fellow district judges. District Court is truly a court that serves all the people of Kentucky.”
Other district judges elected to posts for the Kentucky District Judges Association at the college were Nelson County District Court Judge Robert W. Heaton, president-elect; Jefferson County District Court Judge Donald E. Armstrong Jr., vice president; District Court Judge John M. McCarty, who serves Butler, Edmonson, Hancock and Ohio counties, treasurer; and Bullitt County District Court Judge Rebecca S. Ward, secretary.
Judge Thomas was first elected president of the Kentucky District Judges Association in October 2007. She was vice president from 2005 to 2007 and has been chairwoman of the association’s Education Committee since 2002.
Judge Thomas has served as a District Court judge since November 1996, when she was appointed to the 17th Judicial District, Division 2, for Campbell County. She was subsequently elected to the judgeship.
Since 2001, she has also served in the administrative position of chief regional district judge for the Northern Region by appointment of the chief justice. Chief regional judges are responsible for assigning special judges in cases of conflicts or vacancies and may serve in the absence of any judge within their region. They supervise the administrative business of the courts in their region and provide general direction and supervision to the nonjudicial personnel assigned to those courts.
Judge Thomas volunteers her time to preside over Northern Kentucky Teen Court and the felony Drug Court program in Campbell County. She implemented a diversion program that allows teenage drivers who pass a course to have their driving charges dismissed. She has served as a member of the National Task Force for Youth Courts and the National Association of Youth Courts Board of Trustees since being appointed to those boards in 2006. She is a founding member of the National Association of Youth Courts. She has been a judge for the Kentucky High School Mock Trial regional and state competitions since she took the bench and has judged the National Mock Trial Competition.
In 2007, Judge Thomas was one of the two judges assigned to serve as mental health judges for the Northern Kentucky Regional Mental Health Court by order of the chief justice. The court is a pilot program that serves Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. The program uses the Drug Court model to help reduce recidivism among defendants suffering from mental illness. As administrator of the program, Judge Thomas brought together the key parties, including health care providers, jail staff and community resources.
Judge Thomas is an adjunct professor for Northern Kentucky University, where she teaches business law, and Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law, where she teaches trial advocacy and pretrial advocacy. She has been a guest speaker for the Kentucky Prosecutors Conference, the Kentucky Bar Association Annual Convention, the Kentucky Drug Court Conference, Thomas More College and Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law. She is a frequent presenter at the Kentucky District Judges College and the Kentucky Circuit Judges College and assists with orientation for new district judges.
The Kentucky Court of Justice has recognized Judge Thomas with three awards for her contributions to law-related education programs. She has also received the Northern Kentucky University Alumni Association Professional Achievement Award and the Chase Award of Excellence.
She is a member of the Northern Kentucky Bar Association and the Salmon P. Chase Inns of Court. She served on the American Judges Association Board of Governors, District VIII, from 2000 to 2006.
She graduated second in her class at Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 1985. Prior to her appointment to the bench, she served as a staff attorney for Boone County Circuit Court and worked in a private practice that focused on litigation.
Judge Thomas is a board member for the Brighton Center, a nonprofit agency in Northern Kentucky that works with the court system on court-related programs, and is on the board of directors for the Northern Kentucky University Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. She previously was a board member and an officer for Campbell County Public Defenders Inc. and was a member of the Development Committee for the Fort Thomas YMCA Board of Directors and the St. Anne’s Convent Lay Development Board. She was also a member and Program Committee chairwoman for the Women’s Crisis Center Board of Directors.
Judge Thomas is a lifelong resident of Campbell County and resides in Newport with her husband, Vince, who is also an attorney.
District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. Juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, traffic offenses, probate of wills, felony preliminary hearings, small claims, and civil cases involving $4,000 or less are all District Court matters, as are voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse.
Administrative Office of the Courts
The Administrative Office of the Courts supports the activities of approximately 3,800 Kentucky Court of Justice employees, including the elected offices of justices, judges and circuit court clerks.