Serving Southeast Michigan For Over 30 Years.
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James C. Thomas

Direct Dial: (586) 997-6450
Main Line: (586) 726-1000
Fax: (586) 726-1560

James C. Thomas, Of Counsel to O’Reilly Rancilio, is an experienced and well-known criminal defense attorney who has successfully defended some of Michigan’s highest-profile cases. He joined O’Reilly Rancilio in 2012.

During his nearly 45 years of practice in both federal and state courts, Mr. Thomas has been recognized nationally and in the metro-Detroit area, as a “tough case lawyer.” He has been successful in several recognizable cases, including:

  • The dismissal before preliminary examination of an embezzlement case against an attorney in Oakland County
  • The dismissal before trial of all criminal charges against the Wayne County Senior Corporation Counsel in the so-called $330 million “Wayne County Jail Corruption” case at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice
  • The summary dismissal of a civil suit against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in Flagg v. Kilpatrick in the “Tamara Greene” case
  • The dismissal by a Judge after the Government rested in a two-month trial against a paramilitary group in the internationally publicized “Hutaree Militia Sedition Trial” case
  • The dismissal of criminal charges after a four-month trial in Federal Court of the First Post 9/11 Terrorism Trial in the United States, “The Detroit Sleeper Cell” case. Included in the victory was the admonishment of the then Attorney General John Ashcroft for a gag order violation for public commentary inappropriately vouching for a Government witness in the middle of trial
  • The acquittal by a jury of an Indian contractor for General Electric falsely accused of sexual misconduct on an airplane
  • The acquittal by a jury of a Mexican physician alleged to be paid in kilos of cocaine in the “Los Zetas Mexican Cartel” case
  • The acquittal of a Detroit Police Officer by a jury after a four-month trial in the so-called “Fourth Precinct” corruption case
  • The representation of an Indiana Pacer swept up in the so-called “Malice at the Palace” case
  • The acquittal by a jury of alleged federal racketeering (RICO) charges against an alleged enforcer of the notorious “Young Boys Incorporated”

Mr. Thomas is a fellow of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, which is attained only by invitation. He was a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers from 2007-2019. He served as President of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers in 2006. He is also a recipient of the “Gilman Award,” acknowledgment by his peers on both sides of the bench as the outstanding federal criminal defense lawyer in the Eastern District of Michigan.

Numerous publications have recognized Mr. Thomas as one of the best criminal defense and white-collar criminal defense attorneys in the country, and he is the recipient of multiple awards. Included are the “Defender of Justice Award” from the National Lawyers Guild; the “Justice for All Award” by the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan; and the “Arab-American Professional of the Year Award” by the American-Arab Chamber of Commerce.

He has been an AV-I Rated Attorney by Martindale-Hubbell, the organization’s highest rating, since 1985, and has been consistently named in the Best Lawyers of America. The Michigan Super Lawyers continue to recognize his expertise in white-collar and criminal defense. Detroit Business Magazine has listed him in their publication of The Best Lawyers of Metropolitan Detroit for white-collar and criminal defense, and The American Trial Lawyers Association has designated him one of the top 100 Trial Lawyers in the State of Michigan.

Bar Admissions

  • Michigan, 1974
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, 1974
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1980
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th circuits


  • Michigan State University, Detroit College of Law, East Lansing, Michigan
    J.D., 1974
  • Wayne State University
    B.S., 1969
    Psychology, Minor in Sociology/Anthropology


  • American Bar Association – Annual Criminal Law Symposium on Kilpatrick RICO Trial, 2014
  • Instructor, CDAM Conferences
  • Guest Lecturer, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, University of Detroit and Cooley Schools of Law
  • Ukraine, 2011 United States State Department Rule of Law Lecture Series urging the adoption of a new Criminal Procedure Code, Kiev, Ukraine
  • Criminal Forensics “Guns A Blazin’,” York University Law School, Osgood Hall, Toronto, Canada, 2013
  • Internet & Computer Law, "Sex, Lies and Text Messages," York University Law School, Osgood Hall, Toronto, Canada, 2009
  • "Serbian Adoption of Federal Laws in Sentencing," State Department Rule of Law Initiative, which resulted in their adoption of sentencing guidelines similar to the United States, Belgrade, Serbia, 2008
  • Lecturer, Nursing Home Seminar and Mock Trial, Troy Marriott Hotel, 2007
  • "Case Themes and Motion Practice," Advanced Criminal Practice, CDAM Fall Seminar, Traverse City, 2004
  • "Forfeiture Nuts and Bolts: Current Litigation for the Defense," Advanced Criminal Practice, CDAM Fall Seminar, Traverse City, 2001
  • "Handling the Narcotics Case," Criminal Advocacy Program (CAP), Wayne County Recorders Court Bar Association, 2001
  • "The Commerce Clause and Relevant Issues in Criminal Advocacy," Advanced Criminal Practice, CDAM Spring Seminar, Southfield, 2001
  • "Civil Forfeiture Reform Statute (CAFRA) or As It's Affectionately Known, the Hyde Amendment," Federal Bar Association, U.S. Courthouse Detroit, 2000
  • "Federal Forfeiture and Disgorgement of Attorneys Fees," Federal Bar Association, U.S. Courthouse Detroit, 1999
  • "Alteration of Patient Records," Current Criminal Issues for Health Care Risk Managers, Michigan Society of Healthcare and Risk Management, 1996
  • "Forfeitures; Fascist or Fair," Michigan State Bar Annual Meeting, Criminal Law Section Symposium, 1996

Honors and Awards

  • Martindale-Hubbell’s highest rating, AV-I; The Best Lawyers in America for Criminal Defense in White Collar Crime and Non-White Collar Crime
  • Leonard Gilman Award in 2007, from the Federal Bar Association for "Outstanding Practitioner of Criminal Law" in the Eastern District of Michigan
  • American Trial Lawyers Association, Top 100 Lawyers Award since 2006
  • Michigan Super Lawyers, listed in Criminal Defense and White Collar Crime; Michigan Super Lawyers, a publication of Law & Politics magazine
  • Arab-American Professional of the Year, 2005
  • Defender of Justice Award, National Lawyers Guild, 2004
  • Justice for All Award, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, 2003

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • State Bar of Michigan
  • American Board of Criminal Lawyers, past-President, (Fellowship), 2006 - present
  • American College of Trial Lawyers (Fellowship), 2007-2019
  • Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, Board of Directors, 2004 - present
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Federal Bar Association (Eastern District of Michigan)
  • American Bar Association
  • American Trial Lawyers Association
  • Arab American Bar Association

Practice Areas

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