Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Page 1


Services Set for Senior Ninth Circuit Judge Thompson


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A funeral service for Senior Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David R. Thompson is scheduled for Saturday in San Diego.

Thompson, who was 80, had become sick while in San Francisco to hear oral arguments and was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he died last Saturday, court officials said.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski praised Thompson as “an esteemed jurist, highly regarded by his colleagues and by the many lawyers who argued before him,” while Judge M. Margaret McKeown recalled Thompson as “a quiet force of common sense and fairness” who “never lost his analytical edge, and never lost his heart.” 

Judge Barry G. Silverman described Thompson as “uncommonly kind, and one of the nicest, gentlest, most decent human beings I’ve ever known.”

Thompson was nominated to the Ninth Circuit bench in 1985 by then-President Ronald Reagan. He took senior status on Dec.31, 1998, but continued to carry a substantial caseload while also serving as the court’s death penalty case coordinator, court officials said. At the time of his death, he ranked 19th in seniority among the court’s 48 active and senior judges.

During his 25-year tenure as a judge, Thompson penned the decisions in several notable cases, including Wood v. Ostrander, a 1989 decision which established the standard for deliberate indifference in police misconduct cases; Coleman v. McCormick, a 1989 en banc ruling involving a Montana man sentenced to death under two different state sentencing schemes; Oregonian Publishing Company v. U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, a 1990 decision involving a high-profile criminal case in which the defendant sought to have sealed a plea agreement; and Bunnell v. Sullivan, a 1991 en banc ruling that established the standard for evaluating complaints of disabling pain in Social Security cases.

He also wrote the 2009 opinion in Movsesian v. Victoria Verscherung AG, striking down a California law designed to aid the beneficiaries of Armenian Genocide victims in collecting on life insurance policies. He dissented last year when Senior Judge Dorothy Nelson switched sides on rehearing and voted with Judge Harry Pregerson to uphold the law.

Thompson was also active in court governance, serving as the senior circuit judge representative to the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit from 2006 until 2009 and as a member of the Committee on the Administration of the Bankruptcy System from 1991 to 1996 and as chair until 1999.

The judge completed both his undergraduate and legal education at USC before joining the State Bar in 1956. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 until 1957 before entering private practice in San Diego, practicing mainly in business litigation.

Thompson later became president of the San Diego Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates and a vice-president of the San Diego County Bar Association.

He was a native of San Diego and a member of a family with many ties to the San Diego legal community. His father, now deceased, was San Diego Superior Court Judge Gordon Thompson Sr.; his grandfather Adam Thompson, and uncle, A. Renwick Thompson, were attorneys in San Diego as well.

His brother is Gordon Thompson Jr., a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California and his nephew is San Diego Superior Court Judge John M. Thompson. His daughter, Carolyn Thompson Kelly, is an attorney practicing in Sonoma County and another nephew, Peter R. Thompson, is a lawyer in Napa.

Thompson is survived by his daughter and two sons, Daniel and Adam Thompson, as well as four grandchildren; Robert William Fraser IV, Theadora Dupree Thompson, Kobe Dupree Thompson and Arie Dupree Thompson.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Arna Thompson.

The funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Point Loma Community Presbyterian Church, located at 2128 Chatsworth Boulevard in San Diego.


Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company