Judge Stephen W. Thompson, who had presided over criminal and family court cases in Camden County since 1980, submitted his retirement letter last month to New Jersey Secretary of State Regena L. Thomas.In the May 21 letter, released yesterday by his attorney, Leonard S. Baker of Haddonfield, Thompson cited the pending criminal charges.
His retirement was effective April 30, the same day Thompson was charged with child endangerment, accused of keeping child pornography in his Haddon Township home. He was suspended without pay from his $141,000 job the same day by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
“I have concluded that my retirement would serve the best interests of the Superior Court,” Thompson wrote. “The Court must move forward to fill my position, rather than remain in a state of uncertainty.”
Gov. McGreevey accepted the retirement letter.
A respected and tenured judge, Thompson, 56, was also a decorated war veteran and an inspiration to fellow amputees. Before becoming an administrative law judge, he served as a local prosecutor in Haddon Township and as a municipal judge. He graduated from Rutgers University Law School in Camden.
In his letter to Thomas, Thompson said he sought “to faithfully serve the people of New Jersey by administering justice as fairly and evenhandedly as possible.
“I retire comforted by the knowledge that, regardless of what the future holds, I fulfilled my duties as a judge fairly, responsibly and with compassion,” he wrote.
His departure leaves three judicial vacancies in Camden County, which currently has 21 trial judges. His suspension was the first in Camden County in 20 years.
The mandatory retirement age for state judges is 70. But Thompson opted to take early retirement because the criminal case could drag on for up to a year, Baker said. Since 1974, four state judges have been removed from office, three for breaking the law.
A spokesman for Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi said yesterday that the probe was continuing and that more charges were possible.