Sidney Runyan Thomas

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Sidney Thomas
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
December 1, 2014
Preceded by Alex Kozinski
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
January 4, 1996
Appointed by Bill Clinton
Preceded by Dorothy Nelson
Personal details
Born (1953-08-14) August 14, 1953 (age 68)
Bozeman, Montana, U.S.
Alma mater Montana State University, Bozeman
University of Montana, Missoula

Sidney Runyan Thomas (born August 14, 1953) is Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. His chambers are located in Billings, Montana.

Early life and education

Thomas was born in Bozeman, Montana. He received his bachelor's degree from Montana State University in 1975 and his Juris Doctor with honors from the University of Montana School of Law in 1978.[1] He was appointed as a student member of the state Board of Regents of Higher Education in 1974 and reappointed in 1976.[2]

Professional career

After graduating from law school, Thomas entered private practice at Moulton, Bellingham, Longo & Mather, a law firm in Billings, Montana.[2] He became a senior partner at Moulton Bellingham, where he specialized in commercial litigation,[2] as well as government, bankruptcy and media law.[3]

Thomas also served as the standing bankruptcy trustee for all bankruptcy cases filed in the Billings Division of the United States District Court for the District of Montana from 1978 until 1981 and served as an adjunct instructor in law at Rocky Mountain College from 1982 to 1995.[4]

Ninth Circuit nomination and service

On July 19, 1995, President Bill Clinton nominated Thomas to a seat on the Ninth Circuit. The United States Senate confirmed Thomas in a voice vote on January 2, 1996. Thomas's nomination had been briefly held up by Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, who wanted the nominations of Thomas and A. Wallace Tashima delayed until the passage of a bill to split the Ninth Circuit into two circuits.[1]

Judge Thomas authored the opinion in Nadarajah v. Gonzales,[5] a 2006 civil rights case.

Judge Thomas is the en banc coordinator for the Ninth Circuit, with parliamentarian type duties that can affect the outcome of any case. "I've never known one of his rulings to be challenged," the Ninth Circuit's Chief Judge, Alex Kozinski, has said. "I think it's a tribute to his evenhandedness that he's been on the job for many years, and nobody wants a different en banc coordinator."[6]

On December 1, 2014, Thomas became Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, succeeding Chief Judge Kozinski.[7]

2010 Supreme Court vacancy

Senior White House officials listed Judge Thomas among approximately 10 individuals considered to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. On April 29, 2010, the Associated Press reported that President Obama interviewed Thomas at the White House.[8][9] Vice President Joe Biden also interviewed him. Obama eventually nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan.


Thomas is married to Martha Sheehy, a Billings, Montana attorney who has practiced law since 1988.[10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Senate Confirms Tashima, Thomas to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals". Metropolitan News-Enterprise. January 3, 1996. p. 1. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lorna Thackeray, Thomas’ Colleagues Hail Judge’s Credentials, Billings Gazette (April 16, 2010).
  3. "Clinton Nominates Montana Lawyer for Ninth Circuit Seat". Associated Press. July 19, 1995. p. 1. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "President Nominates Sidney Thomas to Appeals Court". U.S. Newswire. July 20, 1995. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Nadarajah v. Gonzales, 443 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2006).
  6. "Source: Potential High Court Nominee Thomas Would Fit Obama Narrative". The Recorder / Retrieved May 5, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Judge From Billings to Lead Federal Appeals Court" Houston Chronicle, November 23, 2014
  8. "Source: Judge Sidney Thomas on Supreme Court list". Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-04-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Obama interviews Thomas, Garland for high court". Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-04-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Dorothy Nelson
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Preceded by
Alex Kozinski
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit