Well, there won’t be a George III.
George A. Thompson, 45, who this week assumed the Sarpy County District Court judgeship once held by his father, has three daughters, and none of them are named George.
With three older sisters and three daughters, Thompson is awash in girls.
“I’ve never known a brother, and I’ve never known a son,” he said.
But he has known a father, and therein lies the special significance of Thompson’s appointment, announced May 25 by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.
Thompson, a Papillion resident, is the son of retired Sarpy County District Court Judge George Thompson, who from 1983 to 2005 joined with now-retired District Court Judge Ronald Reagan to dispense justice to a soaring county population.
They were years the younger Thompson remembers well.
He was 12 years old when his father was appointed to the bench, and not entirely aware of the special burden of behavior that falls upon the children of judges, not unlike that felt by the children of pastors.
“When I was junior high age, I just didn’t understand it,” he said. “High school, though was different. You always feel you shouldn’t get into any trouble, and yet as a teenager you’re going to make some really stupid decisions.”
His early years were spent at St. Mary Catholic School in Olde Towne Bellevue, and his high school years at Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in west Bellevue.
Though he earned an undergraduate degree in business administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Thompson knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps by practicing law, and so proceeded to earn his law degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law.
Private practice followed until 1998 when he became a deputy county attorney at the Douglas County attorney’s office where he developed expertise in drug enforcement and the related crimes of possession, trafficking and murder. He was designated by the City of Omaha and the Douglas County Board of Commissioners as Project Safe Neighborhood Gang and Gun Prosecutor, and appointed to the Metro Area Drug Task Force.
It’s a background that makes Thompson confident he will hit the ground running as regards 90 percent of the criminal cases that come before a district judge. Civil cases, where businesses or corporations sue one another for amounts more than $50,000, and which can get deeply complex, will require some brushing up, he said.
“Somebody told me once that when you take a position like this you become a temporary expert on everything because you have to immerse yourself in so much research that you begin to think you are actually involved in the litigation,” he said.
At the age of 45, Thompson comes to the bench just four months younger than his father was in 1983.
His judicial philosophy, Thompson said — perhaps reaching back to his years studying business — is that law courts are a part of government, and that government should be run as a business in the sense that its first concern must be to deliver satisfaction to its customers.
“The public is the judge’s customer,” he said, “and the judge, as a decision maker and problem solver, must run his courtroom so that customers, so to speak, should feel that you have taken the time to listen to their arguments and hear what they have to say, even if you rule against them.”
The fair administration of justice, Thompson said, amounts to a public service that establishes trust among the people subject to a court’s jurisdiction.
“That has a great impact,” he said. “Each case builds upon another in its positive impact.”
The Second Judicial District for the District Court, as Sarpy County District Court is formally known, consists of Cass, Otoe, and Sarpy counties. The vacancy arose after the appointment of Judge Max Kelch to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Thompson said he called his father once news of his appointment was made public by the governor’s office.
He told him he needed his robes.
To which his dad, not immediately grasping the import of the request, responded with a simple, “Sure.”
“That’s my dad,” Thompson said. “If you ask for something, he’ll give it to you, no questions asked. He’s always been that way.”
So he spelled it out.
“Dad, I got the judgeship.”