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Courtesy of the Billings Gazette
Courtesy of the Billings Gazette

Yellowstone Magistrate Mark Carman Occupies Special Niche

Did you know Yellowstone National Park has a judge? Meet the Honorable Mark Carman of the U.S. District Court of Wyoming.

Carman became federal magistrate for Yellowstone in 2013, according to KPAX, which conducted a special profile on Carman’s tenure. He is only the fifth person to do so since the role was created in 1894.

KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Chances are longtime readers and residents already know Carman’s name. Indeed, he’s the judge who presided over the High on Life case, meting out punishments to the four men seen walking on Grand Prismatic Spring last year. If you’re caught vandalizing park features or being a “bad tourist,” it’s likely you’ll have to pay a visit to Carman’s court at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs. From KPAX:

There is no other position like it in the United States,” said Carman. “Even if you look at the Yosemite position they have a huge turnover. To have a position for 100, what are we getting up to, 124 years roughly, and only five people have held the position that’s historically significant.”

Yosemite the only other national park with a resident magistrate.

Carman says his position is a dream job – but not one he thought about until it came open.

“The Yellowstone position had not been on my radar,” said Carman. “Because it was on almost nobody’s radar. Very few people even know it’s here. My predecessor Judge Kole was here for 31 years, that meant that he had been here, he came to Yellowstone the same year I was admitted as a lawyer in Wyoming. So the position had not opened up during my entire career.”

Carman’s docket different than most federal judges. It’s heavy on misdemeanor cases and natural resources, and that gives him a chance to be creative with his work. Take the family caught taking petrified wood from the park.

“How do you handle a situation like that,” Carman asked. “There needs to be some element of punishment, needs to be some element of education and then you want to try to send a message to the young people that there are reasons we have the rules. These are just arbitrary, we’re not just going to punish their father just for the heck of it. So you try to come up with ways to deal with that and what I ended up doing was I required everybody in the family to write a little essay about why they shouldn’t pick up petrified wood in the park, and it was kind of fun. I mean especially the young kids’ written in crayon, and I think it came out as a positive overall.”

Outside of his regular court duties, Carman also participates in naturalization ceremonies in Mammoth, usually held every September.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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