Colorado Supreme Court Censures Judge Thompson, Gives 30-Day Suspension

Judge Mark Thompson has been suspended from his judicial duties for 30 days without pay and has been publicly censured by the Colorado Supreme Court.

The Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline requested the Colorado Supreme Court adopt the recommended sanctions. The suspension, which was approved by the Colorado Supreme Court Aug. 29, was connected to an incident with his stepson in July 2021. During that incident, Thompson was accused of pointing an AR-15 style rifle at his 22-year-old stepson’s chest after a confrontation at his Summit County home. 

Thompson originally faced a felony menacing charge after the incident but pleaded guilty to a lesser amended count of disorderly conduct. Thompson was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation. It included standard probationary terms along with anger management requirements. Earlier this month Colorado’s presiding disciplinary judge suspended Thompson from practicing law in Colorado for six months.  

In the Colorado Supreme Court’s opinion, the CCJD considered and included a response from Thompson.

According to Supreme Court records, the confrontation with his stepson was in a larger context of events that put emotional strain on the judge. Those events included grief caused by death and illness in his family and threats to Thompson’s life related to his work as a judge. In response to those threats, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office provided security patrols around Thompson’s home.

During the confrontation in the driveway, Thompson allegedly stated that if his stepson’s friend who was accused of driving too fast, did it again, Thompson would put a .45 through his head. Thompson denied making the statement.

Thompson maintained a car driven by the friend approached him very fast while he was walking his dog after it became dark. Due to the threats he received, Thompson asserted he was fearful for his safety and became angry when he saw his stepson was a passenger in the car. Thompson also thought his stepson appeared to be intoxicated, was confrontational and insisted on entering the home over the judge’s objections. Thompson also asserted the rifle was not loaded. Thompson acknowledged that his stepson alleged that the judge stated the rifle was loaded.

“This court hereby publicly censures you, Judge Mark D. Thompson, for failing to maintain the high standards of judicial conduct required of a judge; for violating Canon Rule 1.1, which requires a judge to comply with the law; and for violating Canon Rule 1.2, which requires that a judge at all times shall act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary and avoids impropriety and the appearance of impropriety,” wrote the Colorado Supreme Court per curiam. Chief Justice Brian Boatright did not participate.

After being charged, the case was handled by specially appointed prosecutors in the 1st Judicial District and a specially selected judge presided over the case. Thompson was the 5th Judicial District’s chief judge since 2013 and acted as the administrative head for the district which includes Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties.

Thompson resigned as the 5th Judicial District’s chief judge and was replaced in February by Judge Paul Dunkelman. That February announcement noted Thompson would remain district court judge and oversee civil cases. 

“Judge Dunkelman has done an exceptional job leading the 5th Judicial District through a very difficult time,” Boatright said in a press release in February. “He quickly and efficiently assumed the role and responsibilities as chief judge. I have no doubt Judge Dunkelman has the qualities and characteristics necessary to be a strong leader and I look forward to working with him.”

According to the Supreme Court record, Thompson contends his stepson and himself have a much healthier relationship now and acknowledged the difficulties of a stepparent/stepchild relationship. Thompson also regretted the harm he caused to his stepson, along with the issues it caused concerning the perception of the judiciary. 

Thompson’s judicial suspension will be from Oct. 15 to Nov. 13. His six-month suspension from practicing law began July 26. 

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