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County's new judge is sworn in at ceremony

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County officially got a new judge Monday.

Former Meeker County Attorney Michael J. Thompson was sworn in by Eighth Judicial District Chief Judge Stephen Drange of Meeker County.

"I'm sure he's going to do a great job," Drange said before swearing in Thompson.

The ceremony was held in a courtroom at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse. Several district and state-level judges attended.

"This is probably one of the few occurrences where you'll be in a courtroom full of people that want to be there," said retired Judge John Lindstrom, whose seat Thompson is filling. Lindstrom retired in August.

Fourteen candidates applied for the position. The governor's judicial selection committee then picked three finalists from the applicants -- Thompson, Yellow Medicine County Attorney Thomas Kramer and Chippewa County Attorney Dwayne Knutsen.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty picked Thompson for the judgeship in early November.

Thompson thanked his family, friends and colleagues, and he said he didn't get where he is today by himself.

"Thank you for the faith you had in me over the years," he said.

Thompson, 52, of Litchfield had worked as Meeker County attorney since 1990.

Prior to then, he was an assistant county attorney. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Montana in 1976 and graduated from William Mitchell College of Law in 1980.

Since moving to Litchfield, Thompson has served as chief of the Litchfield Rescue Squad and as a Babe Ruth baseball coach.

Thompson will continue to reside in Litchfield, where his children: Alyssa, 17, and Chris, 15, attend school. His wife is Tamra.

Judge Drange, who has known Thompson since Thompson began practicing law in Meeker County, gave the new judge a simple piece of advice. "Don't forget what it's like to be a lawyer," he said.

Thompson said he will shadow District 8 judges during the next few weeks to learn judicial procedures. He expects a learning curve but said he's been working in courtrooms for 25 years, and he feels ready to step in soon.

"Instead of making the objections, you have to make a decision whether or not it's warranted," he said about his change in positions.

He said he doesn't bring any agenda to the bench but rather hopes to uphold the law and make decisions based on the facts.

"I've always thought you need to show respect to everyone, and you need to listen," he said.