The Honorable Holly A. Thomas is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Judge Thomas was nominated for the judgeship on September 20, 2021, and confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2022. She received her judicial commission on January 24, 2022.
Judge Thomas previously served, from 2018 to 2022, as a judge on the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, a position to which she was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and in 2021 as a pro tem judge on the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District. She also served, from 2016 to 2018, as the deputy director of executive programs at the California Civil Rights Department, the nation’s largest state civil rights agency. She was appointed to that position by Governor Brown in 2016.
From 2015 to 2016, Judge Thomas served as a special counsel to the solicitor general at the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Prior to that, from 2010 to 2015, she was a senior attorney in the Appellate Section of the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice. She also served, from 2005 to 2010, as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., where she was an Arthur Liman Fellow from 2005 to 2006. Judge Thomas served as a law clerk for the Honorable Kim McLane Wardlaw on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2004 to 2005.
Judge Thomas is a recipient of, from the New York City Bar Association, the 2008 Thurgood Marshall Award for Capital Representation; from the U.S. Department of Justice, the 2012 Special Commendation for Outstanding Service in the Civil Rights Division, 2013 Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service, 2014 Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service—the Department’s highest award for employee performance—and 2015 John Marshall Award for Providing Legal Advice; and, from the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles, the 2022 Trailblazer Award.
Judge Thomas is a member of the boards of directors of 826LA, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write, and the Western Justice Center, a Pasadena-based non-profit organization that empowers people to strengthen their communities by growing the conflict resolution skills and capacity of youth, educators, schools, and community partners.
Born in San Diego, California, Judge Thomas received her bachelor’s degree, with honors and distinction, in political science and African and African American studies from Stanford University in 2000; and her Juris Doctor in 2004 from Yale Law School.