Honored to serve the people

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Judge David Thomson describes serving on the bench as a privilege

By Carol A. Clark

Gov. Bill Richardson appointed David Thomson to the First Judicial District Court Division 7 in late February to fill a vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Daniel A. Sanchez.

“Dave Thomson has been serving the people of New Mexico through his work at the Attorney General’s Office for more than 10 years and I am certain that his experience will be valuable to the court,” Richardson said at the time.

The bipartisan judicial selection commission recommended Thomson, a Democrat, for that judgeship, which presides over Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties.

“I am very honored to have been appointed to this position and I want to keep it,” Thomson said during an interview Wednesday. “I will make every effort to come up to Los Alamos and hear local cases here.”

Thomson, 41, explained that while judicial races don’t generate the same amount of interest as legislative races, they are as important and he urges voters to learn who the candidates are for these critical posts.

Thomson was inspired to go into law by his mother, a school teacher, and his father who was a lawyer in Santa Fe’s First Judicial District, which allowed him to grow up in that judicial community, he said.

Thomson worked at the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office beginning in 1999 and served as deputy attorney general the last four years.

Before becoming deputy, he was director of its litigation division. During that time, Thomson took on a case involving access to White Peak. Through many generations, families in the Cimarron and Springer areas used White Peak as a traditional hunting and wood gathering area. Thomson fought for 10 years to protect that access and won.

“It was that case, a bench case tried by a judge and not a jury, in which I came to really understand the public interest role a judge serves,” Thomson said.

His docket is filled mainly with domestic relations cases.

“You have to be able to operate through a heavy caseload and you have to be able to stay on top of it,” Thomson said.

Seventy percent of his cases are pro se, which he attributes to the struggling economy.

“When you split a household there’s no money for a lawyer,” he said. “Divorce cases are emotional for the parties involved and as a judge, it’s important to be patient and make each side feel comfortable.”

Thomson tells couples the rules of his court, that he would like for them to resolve their situations and that if they can’t then he will.

“As a judge, it’s important to make sure the tensions don’t rise in the courtroom,” he said. “Whether I judge for them or against them, my goal is that they know that the decision was fair…often times, people just want to be heard.”

In 2006, while director of litigation for Attorney General Patricia Madrid; Thomson earned the Lawyer of the Year award. In 2009, under Attorney General Gary King, he received the Best Division Director award.

Thomson is well-known for his legal action against big tobacco companies to enforce tobacco settlement obligations. He also is considered a leader in improving pro se representation for individuals without lawyers.

Thomson served on Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s staff in Washington, D.C. before beginning his legal career as a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Bruce D. Black. He has been a member of the State Bar Association for 10 years, served on the State Bar Disciplinary Board and was appointed by the New Mexico Supreme Court to the Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure.

Thomson was born and raised in Santa Fe. He graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1987, where he played on the Demon basketball team. While in high school, he dated classmate Patricia Romero. The two went their separate ways following graduation. They met 20 years later at their high school reunion. Neither had married. They became engaged and married a year ago.

Thomson is a volunteer basketball coach. He holds a bachelors degree from Wesleyan University and a law degree from the University of Denver College of Law.