Judge Thompson is a graduate of Maryville College and Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. Prior to being appointed to the bench by Governor Nathan Deal in April 2013, Thompson was elected to serve as Fayette County Magistrate Court Judge where he presided over both civil and criminal matters. Judge Thompson was elected Fayette County State Court Judge in 2014 and again in 2018.
So Judge, as we get started, what is on your agenda for this Friday?
“Well today I do not have any trials or hearings on the calendar, so I am spending most the day off the bench. I am going to visit Crabapple Lane Elementary School to swear in their student council. After that, I will stop back by chambers so I can check some emails and do a little work. Then I am going to North Fayette Elementary to meet with entire 3rd grade student body to go over the judicial system and branches of the government. After that, I have a meeting with Peachtree City Rotary Club where I preside over a program called “Laws of Life”, which centers around a writing contest that high school students enter in and write about various “laws of life”, which are types of morals to live by. Last, I am going to Sara Harp Minter Elementary schools, reading to kindergarteners a book about a fable that they turned into a court proceeding.”
How did you get involved with all of the schools?
“I went to elementary, middle and high school in Fayette County. When I was appointed State Court judge, I immediately wondered what I could to do give more opportunities to kid, so first I started a partnership with the high school internship program, where students in the county are able to get class credit for their time interning at the courthouse. That later expanded to college internships and then the law school internships we have available.
Then, I thought, if the student can’t come to the court, let’s bring the court to the students. I reached out to schools, and would go visit whenever possible and speak on any topic. I once used a book, The Crucible, to relate back to due process and fair trials. As time went on, I found that 3rd grade was the sweet spot where kids first start learning about government. Middle school was a critical time for decisions on good life habits and friends, and I could speak to students about that. Then of course with high school students you can get deeper into government and more difficult legal concepts.
I am of the belief that the more schools I go to, the less people going to juvenile court, and the less people going to juvenile court, the less people going to prison.”
What is your favorite part of being a judge?
“There’s obviously very challenging parts of it, starting with anytime you have to make a decision when someone goes to the jail, because that doesn’t just impact the person – it impacts the family, it impacts the employer, it impacts everybody. I look at courtroom 2D in Fayette County State Court as a chance to give people the ability to be heard without being intimidated. It makes it enjoyable to me to know that everyone has open access to the courts, they have a fair chance to talk and speak and they are being respected. In that regard, every time I go into the courtroom if I’m doing that, I’m enjoying it.
Working with all the students is also a favorite part of the job, but I do really love everything about being a judge. This is not a “job” to me. I never look at the clock and think “oh I have to be here another 40 minutes”. I get here early because I like being here early and I stay late because it’s the work that needs to be done and I really enjoy doing the work. It’s an honor to do it.”
Earlier in our conversation you casually mentioned having been in Kathmandu. What is the farthest you have travelled, and do you travel often? India is the farthest we have travelled. My wife has family connections in India. My family and I like to travel a lot. We travel during the year mostly for our kids, who play soccer. They have games in the Metro Atlanta area, but it’s not uncommon on a weekend to have to go to North Carolina or South Carolina or Florida for a game. Last Spring, my kids both went with their teams to train in Madrid, Spain. So, we turned that into a family trip. When we have time to do trips, we like to do trips. When we took the trip to India, we made a side trip to Nepal and stayed in a national park there. One thing I don’t want to lose sight of is that, while I’m a judge, that is secondary to being a husband and dad. Spending quality time with my family is very important. Our next big trip will be to Africa.”
Do you keep up with professional soccer?
“I do. We are very involved with our children’s’ teams as well. I have both coached and refereed for their soccer teams. We go to Atlanta United games when our schedules permit. That’s our team! If you would have told me growing up that there would have been a professional soccer team in Atlanta I would have said no way, because there had been professional soccer teams that were here and left and just weren’t sustained on this magnitude. Falcons, Braves, Hawks, UGA – I’m a huge home team fan. “
You mentioned your wife, Alisha, is an Iron Man. Do you ever train with her?
“Well, an Iron Man Triathlon is a competition were where you swim about 2 miles, bike 112 miles, then run a marathon. So my answer is yeah right! No, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her. What those athletes do is absolutely incredible. I’m just her Sherpa that carries her gear.’
Now, here’s the most important question of the day: DC or Marvel?
“Oh, definitely Marvel. We’re here in the heart of Marvel country on the Southside of Atlanta. It’s been a pleasure taking my kids to go see the Marvel movies and get to say, that was filmed right here in Fayetteville. If you would’ve told me 20 years ago that they were going to make a good Captain America movie I would’ve laughed at you. Then if you would’ve said they’re not only going to make good Captain America movies but they are going to make billions of dollars, I would have laughed again. And then to say, guess what, they’re going to be filming in Fayetteville, I would’ve said what?! It’s incredible what they have done with the movie industry here.”