P. Thomas Thornbrugh
|Justice of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals|
|Assumed office |
September 1, 2011
|Appointed by||Mary Fallin|
|Spouse(s)||Dr. Jean Thornbrugh|
|Alma mater||Emporia State University (B. A. Speech) 1968|
University of Tulsa College of Law (juris Doctor) 1974
|Occupation||Judge of Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals|
P. Thomas (Tom) Thornbrugh [a] is a judge on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. He was born in Garnett, Kansas. He graduated in 1968 from Emporia State University with a B. A. in speech, then enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, then went to Vietnam, where he served with the 1st ARVN Division, and the 1st Signal Brigade at Khe Sanh during the 1971 Laotion invasion. He was honored with the Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for his actions at Khe Sanh. He received an honorable discharge in 1971, and returned to the United States.
Deciding to pursue a civilian career in law, Thornbrugh earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Tulsa in 1974, followed by an opportunity to work on the Washington staff of Senator Dewey Bartlett. He entered private practice in Oklahoma for 20 years, then was appointed as a District Judge. In 1997, he was appointed to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. He has since stood for retention three times. Once, he had no opposition, and twice he was opposed, but won retention with approvals exceeding 60 percent.
Thornbrugh's legal career is notable for at least two reasons: One, his colleagues and peers voted him Trial Judge of the Year in 2011; Second, he discovered that the defendant in one case (Helmerich & Payne) had substantially underreported its interest and profits, allowing the defendant to withhold millions of dollars from royalty owners and investors. The court concurred and forced payment to the rightful owners.
Education and early legal career
Thornbrugh enrolled in the University of Tulsa College of Law. While at Tulsa, he was on the Dean’s Honor Roll and Res Nova law review. After receiving his law degree in 1974, he went to work in Washington, D. C., on the staff of Senator Dewey F. Bartlett (R-OK) for three years. Returning to his home state, he had a private law practice in Oklahoma for the next 20 years.
On the bench
Governor Frank Keating appointed him as a district judge for the 14th Judicial District in 1997.[b] During the next 15 years, his colleagues elected him as Presiding Judge of the District, President of the Assembly of Presiding Judges and as a member of the Oklahoma Judicial Conference Executive Committee. the Oklahoma Association for Justice[c] named him Trial Judge of the Year in 2011.
Judge Thornbrugh is an adjunct professor at the University of Tulsa School of Law.
A significant decision
A notable decision made by Judge Thornbrugh in 2009, occurred during review of a case between Tulsa-based energy services company, Helmerich & Payne (H&P),and oil royalty owners in Beckham County, Oklahoma, in which the trial court had ordered H&P to pay the royalty owners $68.5 million in damages.[d] The judgement was appealed, and came before Judge Thornbrugh, who determined that the previous award was erroneous because, "... the jury had under-calculated the amount of interest and profits the energy company had made." He asserted the proper award should be $126 million.
Thornbrugh filed for retention in the 2010 election. He was automatically returned to the bench because no one ran against him.
Governor Mary Fallin appointed Judge Thornbrugh to fill a vacancy on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals in September 2011. The judge ran again in 2012. This time he had opposition, but was retained with approval of 67.3 percent of the voters. Voters retained him again in 2016 with 61.04 percent approving.
Thornbrugh was one of four graduates named as 2013 Distinguished Alumni by Emporia State University.
- A document published by Emporia State shows that the initial P. stands for Paul.
- The 14th District includes Tulsa County, which meant that he served as Municipal Court Judge for the cities of Tulsa and Bixby.
- The Oklahoma Association for Justice (OAJ)is a non-profit association of civil trial lawyers who advocate for the rights of the individual in the trial system. The state-wide organization began in 1943, when it was named the Negligence and Compensation Attorneys Association (NACLA), then called itself the Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) and finally rebranded itself with the present name.
- The case had been filed in the trial court 1998.
- "Four named 2013 Distinguished Alumni." Emporia State University. September 30, 2013. Accessed May 6, 2013.
- "Judge Tom Thornbrugh, Court of Civil Appeals, District 3, Office 1 Judicial Retention 2012." League of Women Voters. 2012. Accessed May 6, 2018.
- P. Thomas Thornbrugh." Retention Ballot 2016. Accessed May 6, 2018.
- "P. Thomas Thornbrugh". Ballotpedia. Accessed May 6, 2018.
- "Oklahoma Association for Justice" Lawyer Legion. 2018. Accessed June 26, 2018.
- Ellis, Randy. "Judge orders energy company to pay $126M." The Oklahoman. January 14, 2009. Accessed May 7, 2018.
- "Fallin, Mary. "Governor Fallin Selects Judge Tom Thornbrugh to Fill Vacancy on Oklahoma Civil Appeals Court." Press Release. September 2, 2011. Accessed May 6, 2018.