5th Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson back to work after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct

For now, he will not preside over criminal cases

Former 5th Judicial District Chief Judge Mark Thompson wears a mask in the courtroom during a hearing April 28, 2020, at the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

Judge Mark Thompson is back at work.

The former chief judge of Colorado’s 5th Judicial District is back in the courtroom as of Tuesday, Jan. 18, according to a letter from interim Chief Judge Paul Dunkelman.

Thompson was placed on planned paid time off in October after being charged with a single count of felony menacing stemming from an incident in July. According to court documents, Thompson threatened his stepson with an “AR-15 style rifle” last summer. Earlier this month, he pleaded guilty, and doing so lowered his original charge from felony menacing to disorderly conduct.

According to the letter from Dunkelman dated Jan. 14, Thompson was to return to the bench Jan. 18. Upon his return, the letter stated that there would be “a re-allocation of docket assignments in Summit County” and that Thompson would not be presiding over any criminal cases. Instead, these would be assigned to 5th Judicial District Judge Karen Romeo.

The letter went on to say that “the docket will be balanced in other ways” and that the formerly retired District Judge W. Terry Ruckriegle will continue to provide assistance on criminal cases for the time being.

In the letter, Dunkelman wrote that “we are happy that this matter was appropriately handled through the legal process and that everyone was treated fairly.” He also wrote that “we have worked hard to assure that the needs of the legal community have been met over the last few months and will continue to do so as we move forward.”

As a condition of his probation, Thompson will be required to continue with the anger management treatment he has been undergoing since the July incident. Thompson’s progress in completing this treatment will be communicated with his therapist, with special prosecutor Brian Hassing and with the court.

At the plea hearing this month, Thompson expressed his regret for the incident, which he said puts those in the legal system in an “uncomfortable position.”

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum said she has not received word from any community members about the case since it was wrapped up.

“No one has reached out to me personally to express any concern about trust in the community being tampered or being impacted at all,” McCollum said.

On Friday, Jan. 21, Thompson turned in his resignation for chief judge, according to Colorado Judicial Department spokesperson Rob McCallum, who added that Thompson would remain a district judge moving forward. This opens up the running for chief judge, and McCallum said Dunkelman will be vying for the permanent position. Once an appointment has been made, chief judges serve indefinitely.

In general, McCallum said he has no concerns about Thompson returning to the legal environment.

“I’ve known Judge Thompson for quite some time. I know he is a professional, and he will take up the civil docket, and he will preside over that docket as he is expected to and will fulfill his duties as the constitutional office in the state of Colorado,” McCallum said.

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