Thorne — the first American Indian to serve on Utah's bench — has been nationally recognized for his work in helping to establish improved guidelines for judges across the country for children in foster care. McQueen said Thorne has accomplished this by encouraging judges to focus on the relationships surrounding the foster child rather than just removal and safety.
Thorne was appointed to the Utah Court of Appeals in May 2000 by Gov. Mike Leavitt and served on the appellate court until his retirement in 2013. He was a judge in the 3rd Circuit Court for eight years, and served in the 3rd District Court for six years.
He received a B.A. from the University of Santa Clara in 1974 and a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1977.
Thorne has served as a tribal court judge in Utah, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Michigan. He is the former president of the National Indian Justice Center (a nonprofit that trains tribal court personnel around the country), and a member of the Board of Directors for National CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates, a nonprofit group that provides volunteer representation for abused and neglected children in court).
He has also served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (a nonprofit seeking to improve the level of research and practice related to adoptions), and a member of the ABA Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children. He is a former member of the Utah Judicial Council, the Board of Circuit Court Judges, and the Board of Directors for the National Indian Court Judge's Association, among many other public service positions.
NCSC presents six Distinguished Service awards annually to those who have made significant contributions to the court system and to the work of the NCSC. The awards recognize one person from each of the following categories: current of former state appellate judge; current of former state trial judge; state-level court administrator or employee; trial-level court administrator or employee; attorney or other individual not employed by the courts; and current or former international judge or court executive.