Thompson files for reelection as county court judge

[Courtesy of the Fifth Judicial Circuit]

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Posted November 15, 2023 | By Caroline Brauchler

Marion County Judge Thomas “Tommy” Thompson is running to retain the Fifth Judicial Circuit position he has held since 2016.

Thompson, who oversees the Marion County Mental Health Court, said he believes his experience over the past terms, patience and tolerance make him a qualified candidate to continue serving the public in this capacity.

“With the experience that I’ve had, I feel like I’m well positioned at this point in my career to address these cases and to see them through to a quick and a timely resolution, but a fair resolution for everybody involved,” he said.

Thompson is the only candidate to date in the nonpartisan race.

The Mental Health Court is a special diversion program that allows nonviolent misdemeanor offenders with histories of mental health issues to go through an alternate form of rehabilitation rather than a traditional sentencing. Thompson has been in charge of the program since 2016.

“It’s a fantastic program,’’ he said. “We serve the participants—we obtain treatment, counseling and necessary medication. We try to assist with obtaining stable housing and really just try to get the participants on the road to wellness and to where they’re productive happy members of society.”

Thompson said one of his biggest priorities has been and will continue to be expanding the mental health court program to serve a broader number of candidates. He said they’re nearly ready to begin accepting nonviolent felony offenders with mental health issues into the program so that they, too, might benefit from alternative rehabilitation.

The expansion could benefit more than just those who receive treatment, however, Thompson said. By taking a portion of felony cases off the circuit court’s docket, it could free up courtroom time and resources for more serious, violent cases.

“If we can assist the circuit court judges with getting some of those nonviolent, lower ranking, third-degree felony charges… it helps the felony judges turn their attention to the more serious, more complicated cases and really give those cases the time and the attention that they need,” he said.

Thompson said offenders who go through Mental Health Court are also a much lower risk to society upon completion and have a lower chance of committing crimes in the future.

Thompson is also the immediate past president of the Conference of County Court Judges of Florida, a two-year position to which his fellow judges elected him in 2020. He said one of the conference’s biggest priorities is increasing compensation for the judiciary statewide.

“Judges statewide, the trial judges, are seeking an increase in compensation,’’ Thompson said. “Compensation and the pay scale for trial judges has lagged behind that of the appellate judges and the (Florida) Supreme Court.”

In addition to the experience under his belt, Thompson said he also takes pride in his demeanor as a judge.

“I have been told by litigants and by the attorneys who appear before the court that I do treat litigants with fairness and with respect,” he said. “I try my best to give everybody who comes to the courthouse to have their case, or to give all the parties, a fair opportunity to be heard by the court and to have their arguments considered.”

He said it takes a “special type of person” to be a county court judge, and that he truly enjoys the work he has been elected to do.

“I appreciate the people in Marion County putting their faith in me over the last few terms,” Thompson said. “I’m hopeful that if I again am able to secure reelection that I continue to meet their expectations and to serve the community in a fair and an even-handed manner.”

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