NewsMissoula County


Longtime Missoula judge announces plans to retire

Posted at 9:37 AM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 15:09:44-04
Karen Townsend
Fourth Judicial Court Judge Karen Townsend (Dennis Bragg/MTN News photo)

MISSOULA – A long time Missoula district court judge has announced her plans to step down from the bench.

Fourth Judicial Court Judge Karen Townsend, who’s served nearly a decade on the bench, has announced she will retire this summer.

Townsend, who was the first woman elected as district court judge in Missoula County, has told Montana Supreme Court Justice Mike McGrath that she intends to step down Aug. 30.

“I have been blessed with wonderful fellow judges in the district and across the state as well as a staff that is second to none,” Townsend wrote in her letter to McGrath. “I will miss the work and the colleagues, but the time has come to pass the torch.”

Townsend presided over thousands of cases during her tenure, which included family law, civil, and juvenile criminal cases.

She is perhaps best known for presiding over the Jordan Johnson rape trial and the Mountain Water condemnation case in which the City of Missoula acquired ownership of the city’s water system.

Townsend was first elected as District Court judge in 2010 and re-elected in 2016.

Prior to her election, she spent much of her legal career with the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, which included serving as the chief deputy county attorney from 1998 to 2006.

Townsend, who is a member of the State Bar of Montana and the American Bar Association, has received numerous accolades over the years.

Townsend also is the director of the Trial Advocacy Program at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana and has coached the program’s competition team since 1998.

In 2017, the law school honored her with a Distinguished Service Award for her work with program. Townsend has also volunteered for many community organizations over the years.

The state Judicial Nomination Commission is tasked with nominating candidates to fill vacant District Court judgeships. The governor then selects a nominee, who must be confirmed by the Montana Senate.