Fourteenth Judicial District - District Judge
2002 Retention Survey Report
Honorable Joel S. ThompsonRetention year: 2002
Recommendation: Do not retain
The Fourteenth Judicial District Commission on Judicial Performance recommends by a vote of six to three that Judge Joel S. Thompson NOT BE RETAINED.
Judge Thompson was appointed to the District Court bench for the Fourteenth Judicial District in 1994. Prior to his appointment Judge Thompson was in private practice in Steamboat Springs for 13 years specializing in real estate law and general civil litigation. He graduated from Colorado State University in 1976 and from the University of Colorado Law School in 1980. Judge Thompson is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Order of the Coif.
After law school, Judge Thompson served as a law clerk to Federal Judge Alfred A. Arraj. He has served on the Routt County Board of Zoning Adjustment, the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors and is a board member of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. Judge Thompson has also taught law courses at Colorado Mountain College and Colorado Northwest Community College. He currently presides over criminal, civil, juvenile, domestic relations, mental health and probate cases in Moffat and Routt Counties and occasionally Grand County.
The Commission was provided with survey responses from attorneys and non-attorneys. The non-attorney responses were from jurors, law enforcement, social services, courthouse personnel and non-attorney litigants who have appeared in front of the judge. The Commission also considered letters to the Commission concerning Judge Thompson, reviewed his written self-evaluation and conducted a personal interview with the judge.
In survey results, Judge Thompson received consistently low ratings on the issue of courtesy to parties, witnesses or attorneys. For example, statewide 65% of attorneys and 68% of non-attorneys gave district court judges an "A" rating on courtesy to parties or witnesses. Judge Thompson received an "A" rating from only 28% of attorneys and only 38% of non-attorneys. Several responses describe him as arrogant, rude or inconsiderate and question the judge’s judicial temperament. During his interview, Judge Thompson indicated that he is not intentionally discourteous to litigants and witnesses although this may be the perception. However, he acknowledged that he fully intends to be critical of attorneys when their work is not in compliance with the Rules of Procedure or his orders.
Judge Thompson received consistently high marks for his intellectual and legal abilities, accuracy of rulings and his knowledge of evidence and procedure rules. Some responses noted a concern that Judge Thompson occasionally makes up his mind and rules before all arguments are properly before him. However, the survey results indicate that his decisions are prompt and well reasoned and that he is hard working and efficient in managing his docket. Survey results showed that 75% of attorneys and 65% of non-attorneys favored retention of Judge Thompson.
Survey responses questioned whether Judge Thompson’s personal relationships were having an effect on his judicial performance. Several comments indicated that publicity concerning his private life raised concerns as to public confidence and the standards of conduct to which judges must adhere. Judge Thompson stated that he feels he has a very high personal integrity and works hard to provide a fair and impartial forum for the resolution of legal disputes on a timely basis.