Judge’s resignation opens up a vacancy on 5th Judicial District’s bench  | VailDaily.com

Judge’s resignation opens up a vacancy on 5th Judicial District’s bench 

Commission to select nominees to be appointed by Gov. Polis

Judge Mark Thompson is photographed in the courtroom during a hearing at the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

Judge Mark Thompson of the 5th Judicial District Court will be retiring on Jan. 14, 2023, opening up a vacancy on the district court bench. 

Thompson, based out of Summit County, served as the chief judge for the sprawling district that includes Summit, Clear Creek, Eagle and Lake counties until he was demoted and then temporarily suspended for threatening his stepson in July 2021. According to reporting from the Denver Post, Thompson resigned because of “personal circumstances,” according to resignation letters he submitted to 5th Judicial Chief Judge Paul Dunkelman and State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright.

The 5th Judicial District Nominating Commission is tasked with selecting nominees to recommend to Gov. Jared Polis. After the nominees are announced, the governor will have 15 days to interview the potential judges and decide who will replace Thompson.

The Eagle County Court and the 5th Judicial District Court have seen numerous transitions this year. Most recently, Eagle County Court Judge Rachel Olguin-Fresquez transitioned from the county court bench to the district court bench following Judge Russel Granger’s retirement. Stepping into Olguin-Fresquez’s prior role, Inga Causey was appointed to the county court judgeship on Dec. 12. 

Thompson’s retirement is coming nearly 13 years after his appointment to the 5th Judicial District Court. During his judiciary tenure, Thompson served as the district’s chief judge from 2013 to 2021. According to his performance review, Thompson also served as a Judicial Branch Public Access Committee member, a Chief Justice Blue-Ribbon Commission on Bail and Bond Reform member, and as a chair of the Virtual Proceedings Committee and the Judicial Branch ITS Standing Committee.

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According to The Denver Post, Thompson was removed from his leadership position as chief judge for the district and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in connection with the 2021 threat. But he was allowed to continue serving as a judge for the district, working solely on non-criminal cases during a year-long disciplinary probation period.

Thompson pointed an AR-15-style rifle at his stepson’s chest during an argument while the judge was under “significant emotional strain” from both illness and death in his family, and threats to his life related to his work as a judge, a disciplinary investigation found.

Thompson became angry when his stepson’s friend drove “too fast” past Thompson while he was walking his dog after dark, according to the investigation. Thompson allegedly threatened to “put a .45 through (the friend’s) head” if the friend continued to drive fast, authorities found.

To select nominees to replace Judge Thompson, the 5th Judicial District Nominating Commission will be meeting through video conference on Jan. 24 to interview candidates. Because Judge Thompson’s retirement creates the vacancy on Jan. 14 the position will remain vacant for at least 10 days before nominees are even selected. The position may remain vacant longer depending on how long it takes for Polis to interview and select the new judge. 

“To be eligible, the applicant must be a qualified elector of the Fifth Judicial District at the time of investiture and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Colorado for five years,” a release detailing the approaching judgeship vacancy read. 

Applications, available on the court’s website, must be submitted to the Nominating Commission by Jan. 9, 2023. 

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