Herman Thomas

Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas was suspended from the bench for alleged ethical violations in 2007 and later resigned from office. Thomas was disbarred for spanking defendants in a private office he had at the Mobile County courthouse, but was acquitted of charges in a criminal case.

In 2007, at his own request, Thomas became the focus of a probe by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission. Thomas was charged with 30 violations of judicial ethics. Those charges ranged from allegations that Thomas unduly helped his friends or family members with their legal troubles to literally changing the legal status or reducing sentences of convicted criminals after other judges on the 13th Judicial Circuit had already sentenced them.

When his fraternity brother and relative School Board President David Thomas Jr. was charged with D.U.I. after running over an 8-year-old girl's foot during Mardi Gras, Judge Thomas granted his the return of his driver's license early and assisted him in transferring jails.

Simultaneously, there was an investigation into claims by a number of young men, who were prisoners at the Mobile County Metro Jail, that Circuit Judge Herman Thomas paddled them after checking them out of the jail and taking them to a private room in the courthouse after hours. Four men signed affidavits as part of a federal suit alleging that Thomas tried to initiate sexual encounters with them and threatened them with retaliation in their criminal cases if they refused.

Jimmy Gardner, president of Mobile’s chapter of the NAACP and brother of Thomas’ longtime secretary Debbie Gardner, questioned whether there were racial motives behind the investigation of the claims. Gardner said his organization planned to file complaints with the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Alabama’s Attorney General’s office, requesting investigations of Mobile AG John Tyson’s office.

In 2009, Thomas was indicted on criminal charges including sex abuse, extortion and sodomy. The jury returned not guilty verdicts on some of the charges, but deadlocked on others, which a judge then dismissed.

Thomas' law license was suspended in March 2009 after his indictment. In 2010, the Alabama State Bar disbarred Thomas for "sexually motivated assaults." The disbarments were ordered to be served concurrently, which means Thomas can ask for his law license to be reinstated after five years. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the decision in November 2010.

In 2010, Thomas unsuccessfully ran against Vivian Davis Figures for the Democratic nomination for State Senate District 33. The Alabama Democratic Conference, the state's oldest black political organization, had endorsed Thomas.