On May 15, 2023, the Supreme Court of the State of Colorado publicly censured Mark D Thompson, former District Court Judge for the Fifth Judicial District in Colorado for berating a counsel while presiding in a proceeding.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Mark D Thompson,” and was brought by the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline with case no. 23SA18.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Canon Rules 1.1, 1.2, 2.8, and 2.11 which states:

A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct.

A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety

A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity.

A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to the following circumstances: The judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer.

While presiding over a pre-trial readiness conference, the former judge allegedly lost his temper after finding out that the plaintiff’s counsel didn’t know how to substitute the defendant’s estate for the defendant, and that neither counsel had complied with an earlier pretrial order to submit witness lists, exhibit lists, proposed jury instructions, and a joint case management certificate. He allegedly berated the counsel in a tone that was rude, condescending, and mocking.

The filing states:

“Former Judge Thompson threatened counsel that if they did not appear to say these things to the prospective jurors, he would issue bench warrants for their arrest. He further threatened that if counsel did not say exactly what he told them to say, he would immediately find them in direct contempt of court, remand them to jail, and that it would be a “heck of a long time before they saw the light of day.”

The filing continues:

“Two weeks later, on December 5, 2022, former Judge Thompson issued another order in the personal injury case. First, if former Judge Thompson granted the parties’ motions to reconsider and vacated his previously imposed sanctions because counsel had by then substituted the estate and obtained service on the personal representative. Former Judge Thompson subsequently reset the trial in April of 2023. Second, while acknowledging “disappointment” in his own “intemperance,” Judge Thompson denied the plaintiff’s motion to recuse himself from the case based on his treatment of counsel, as discussed above.”

In response to his misconduct, former Judge Thompson took full responsibility for his conduct by agreeing to a stipulation. More specifically, Judge Thompson apologized for mismanaging his anger and failing to maintain the professional demeanor expected of a judge.

The filing further states:

“Judge Thompson submits that counsels’ noncompliance with court orders in the above-referenced personal injury case, and their neglect of the case and of their clients, was significantly disrespectful to the court, the clients, the prospective jurors, and the court system. He submits that it would have been appropriate for him to be stern and scolding for their failure to abide by his orders and to suggest that they should face consequences personally for that disrespectful behavior which was harmful to the court, the clients, and the legal system. But he acknowledges that all of those things could and should have been done in a manner that was not disrespectful, rude, or mocking or in a way that required him very quickly to reverse his own rulings and orders. He submits that his anger was not the result of any animus or bias against the lawyers personally or their legal positions, but their failure to abide by appropriate trial management orders and the disrespect their neglect of the case demonstrated toward their clients and the judicial system.”

Upon consideration of the law, the evidence, the record of the proceedings, the stipulation, and the commission’s recommendation, and being sufficiently advised in the premises, the court concluded that the terms of the stipulation are supported by the record of the proceedings. Therefore, the court ordered the stipulation to become effective and issued the agreed-upon sanctions which is a public censure against the respondent.

The Disposition states:

“Upon consideration of the law, the evidence, the record of the proceedings, the Stipulation, and the Commission’s recommendation, and being sufficiently advised in the premises, this Court concludes that the terms of the Stipulation comply with and are supported by the record of the proceedings. Therefore, this Court orders the Stipulation to become effective and issues the agreed-upon sanctions. This Court hereby publicly censures you, former Judge, Mark D. Thompson, for violating Code Of Judicial Conduct Canon Rules 1.1, 1.2, 2.8, and 2.11. In summary, disbarment was made in error. moral turpitude or other misconduct warranting discipline for his misdemeanor conviction.”

Former Judge Thompson attended the University of Denver, graduating in 1992.

Judge Thompson is the former District Court Judge for the Fifth Judicial District in Colorado, which is located at 501 North Park Avenue, Breckenridge, CO 80424, and can be reached at +1 970-453-2241. His info can be found on ballotpedia.org.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.