Chairman named in judicial appointment committee |

Chairman named in judicial appointment committee

Paul Shockley

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Michael Bender has been appointed chairman of the 14th Judicial District’s nominating commission, which will review applicants for the position to be vacated by Judge Joel Thompson.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary J. Mullarkey named Bender to the position Wednesday.

The justice will work with a seven-person nominating commission, made up of attorneys and non-attorneys across the 14th Judicial District, in collecting judge applications and planning meetings for the group, said Susan Festag, chief deputy clerk of the state Supreme Court and the nominating commission’s liaison.

“All applications will be sent here, and delivered together at the same time to the commission,” Festag said.

The commission has 30 days from the election’s certification to advertise the position, and

eventually select no more than three candidates for Gov. Bill Owens’ consideration.

Owens will have 15 days upon receiving the recommendations to name Thompson’s replacement.

The judge’s term expires Jan. 14, but he could opt to resign before that.

Bender will not have a vote on which judges are forwarded to the governor for appointment, Festag said.

“All applicants’ names will be made public record once the application period closes,” she added.

Moffat County has three representatives on the nominating commission.

Craig’s Jerry Jones Vogelsang, Robert Aaberg, and attorney William Lawrence will have a hand in picking Thompson’s successor.

A role Lawrence suggested he’d rather not be faced with.

“The few times I was in front of him (Thompson), he was always open and would carefully listen to all arguments,” Lawrence said. “Joel was one of the hardest-working judges we’ve had and he’s done an excellent job of running his courtroom.”

But surveys completed by the 14th Judicial District’s performance commission found Thompson to be “arrogant, rude or inconsiderate,” while questioning his “judicial temperament.”

Lawrence said hearings before Thompson did not leave such impressions.

He also suggested he’ll scrutinize the judge’s potential successor for Thompson’s same qualities.

“It’s a difficult job and it needs someone willing to put in the time,” Lawrence said.

Thompson, who was appointed to the 14th Judicial District bench in 1994, was ousted by roughly 53 percent of voters across Moffat, Routt and Grand counties. Final numbers show 7,533 against retention, while 6,788 wanted him to stay.

Thompson had the least support in Moffat County, losing 2,328 votes to 1,744, or 43 percent of voters. He was supported in Routt County by 44 percent of voters. But

Thompson won in Grand County, garnering support from 57 percent of voters.

Thompson was the fifth judge since 1990, when the state began placing retention questions for judges before voters, to be removed from the bench.

Judicial performance commissions have evaluated some 670 judges, resulting in 14 “do-not-retain” recommendations and eight no-opinions.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at

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