Update: Colorado Supreme Court suspends 5th Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson for 30-day period without pay

Chief Judge Mark Thompson is photographed in the courtroom during a hearing at the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge on Tuesday, April 28.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information from the full opinion released by the Colorado Supreme Court.

The Colorado Supreme Court issued Monday an unpaid 30-day suspension of 5th Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson related to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction in January

Thompson will be suspended without pay from Oct. 15 to Nov. 13.

Thompson pleaded guilty to a Class 2 charge of disorderly conduct on Jan. 14 in exchange for the dismissal of a felony menacing charge after he threatened his stepson with an “AR-15 style rifle” in July 2021. The opinion cited Thompson’s guilty plea and his admission of breaking two judicial conduct rules.

The opinion claims Thompson committed two violations of judicial conduct: he did not comply with the law, and he failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary and avoids impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

Thompson has expressed regret for his actions according to the opinion. He regrets the harms he caused to his stepson and to the public’s perception of the judiciary.

The opinion states Thompson took responsibility for his conduct through his plea and through his cooperation with the commission as required.

Thompson served as the 5th Judicial District’s Chief Judge from Dec. 1, 2013, to Oct. 17, 2021, the date he was placed on paid administrative leave until the conclusion of his criminal case. He resumed his duties as a district court judge on Jan. 17, 2022. He cannot be given a criminal docket until he completes his one-year unsupervised probation following a Jan. 14 guilty plea, according to the opinion.

As part of the probation deal, Thompson was required to continue receiving anger management treatment. According to the opinion, Thompson claims he has continued to meet all requirements of his probation.

On July 26, — a year and a day after the confrontation that sparked the situation — the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge released a conditional punishment against Thompson, according to a stipulation to discipline document. 

“It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness,” the stipulation to discipline filed by the court stated.

The disciplinary judge approved penalties if Thompson failed to complete his one-year probation, which would includes a six month suspension.

According to the opinion released Monday, Thompson and his stepson were in a “heated verbal confrontation.” The confrontation reportedly began on the street after a car ferrying his stepson drove toward Thompson at what he claimed was a “high rate of speed.“ Thompson and his stepson gave varying accounts of the event, with the stepson claiming Thompson threatened ”to put a .45 through (the driver’s) head” and Thompson claiming his stepson appeared to be intoxicated and confrontational, according to the Colorado Supreme Court opinion.

The confrontation then moved inside the home, where Thompson grabbed the gun from a safe and allegedly pointed it at his stepson’s chest, according to the opinion. The stepson left the home and dialed 911.

Thompson claimed the rifle wasn’t loaded, the Supreme Court says, but his stepson claimed Thompson said otherwise during the incident.

According to Thompson’s explanation in the opinion, several life events had caused “significant emotional strain” on him at the time. Illness and death in his family and threats on his life due to his work as a judge were cited as factors. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office ”had provided enhanced security patrols around Judge Thompson’s home“ following the threats, the commission says. 

In regards to actions taken since his arrest, the commission wrote, ”Thompson contends that he and his stepson have made extraordinary progress reconciling their differences and presently have a much healthier relationship.”

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation investigated the case after the Summit County Sheriff’s Office recused itself due to Thompson’s former role as chief judge of the Sheriff’s Office judicial district, as did the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and other 5th Judicial District judges.

5th Judicial District Judge Paul Dunkelman was appointed interim chief judge on Oct. 16, 2021, pending the resolution of Thompson’s case. Thompson eventually resigned from that post, and Dunkelman was appointed succeeding chief judge on Feb. 4, 2022.

Summit Daily News reached out to Judge Bryon M. Large, by leaving a message for the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, and to the office of 5th Judicial District Judge Paul Dunkelman, but neither returned media requests as of deadline Monday. A spokesperson with the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the matter.

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