Kentucky Court of Justice
Campbell County District Judge Karen A. Thomas receives Chief Justice’s Special Service Award
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Campbell County District Court Judge Karen A. Thomas received the Chief Justice’s Special Service Award at the Kentucky Bar Association’s annual banquet June 16 in Lexington. The banquet took place during the KBA’s convention.
Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. presented the award to Judge Thomas for her distinguished service to the commonwealth as a district judge and her tireless dedication to promoting the highest standards of courtesy and professionalism among Kentucky’s judiciary through her service as chief regional district judge for the Northern Region, president of the Kentucky District Judges Association and chair of the District Judges Education Committee.
“The judicial system and the commonwealth have benefited tremendously from Judge Thomas’ vivacious personality and her commitment to her profession,” Chief Justice Minton said. “I truly appreciate her dedicated service and can’t thank her enough for the work she has done to improve the judicial system in Kentucky.”
In presenting the award to Judge Thomas, Chief Justice Minton praised her energy and work ethic and pointed out her efforts with Northern Kentucky Teen Court, the Drug Court program and Northern Kentucky Regional Mental Health Court. She volunteers her time as a judge for the programs. He also discussed her work as an adjunct professor for Northern Kentucky University, where she teaches business law, and Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law, where she has taught evidence, trial advocacy and pretrial litigation for more than 20 years. She has co-taught Barristers, Bobbies and Beheadings, a study abroad program in London, since 2008.
As a member of the District Judges Legislative Committee, Judge Thomas has been a frequent presenter before the House and Senate judiciary committees and is well-known among both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly, Chief Justice Minton said.
“She has truly become a goodwill ambassador on behalf of the court system and has played a crucial role in keeping the lines of communication open between judges and legislators regarding important pieces of legislation,” he said.
Judge Thomas also stays active with professional organizations and the Northern Kentucky community, Chief Justice Minton said. She is a board member for the Brighton Center, a nonprofit agency in Northern Kentucky that works with the court system on court-related programs, the Northern Kentucky University Alternative Dispute Resolution Center, the Northern Kentucky Council on Education and the Salmon P. Chase College of Law Alumni Association. She is a member of the Newport Historic District and the East Row Garden Club.
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. She previously served as a staff attorney for Boone and Gallatin circuit courts and was an attorney in a private practice that focused on litigation.
Since 2001, Judge Thomas 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 has served as president of the Kentucky District Judges Association since 2007. She has chaired the association’s Education Committee since 2002 and served as a member of its Legislative Committee since 2003.
Judge Thomas volunteers her time to preside over Northern Kentucky Teen Court and the felony Drug Court program in Campbell County and has implemented a diversion program for teenage drivers that includes driver education. 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 also 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.
In addition to her work as an adjunct professor for Northern Kentucky University and Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Judge Thomas 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.
Judge Thomas 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.
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 chair 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.