Former Missoula County Chief Deputy Attorney Karen Townsend
Hello, I'm Karen Townsend, and I'm running for District Court Judge in the Fourth Judicial District. I believe I have the necessary credentials and qualifications to serve as District Judge, and I hope you'll agree. I served as Missoula County Chief Deputy Attorney for the Criminal Division for eight years. Prior to that promotion I served eighteen years as a Deputy County Attorney, a year and a half as a special prosecutor for the State of Montana, and over two years as Director of Training for the National College of District Attorneys. I have also been a special assistant United States attorney for almost twenty years.
In order to give you a better idea of who I am and why I am running for District Judge, I'd like to share a bit about my background and my qualifications.
I was born and raised and graduated from college in Ohio, where my mother was a homemaker and my father was a lawyer who represented small businesses and did estate planning. As a teenager I sometimes helped out around his office, but I never dreamed that I might one day grow up to be a lawyer. When I graduated from college in the mid-1960s, it was still fairly uncommon for women to be lawyers, so I trained to be an English teacher. I moved to Berkeley to attend graduate school, and it was there I met my husband, Burke. After I completed my MA degree, we moved to Hawaii, where Burke attended graduate school. I taught high school and worked as a high school counselor for over five years. Burke and I have been married nearly 44 years. We have one grown son, Alan, who now teaches and conducts research in biogeochemistry at the University of Colorado.
In 1971 we moved to Bozeman, where we began our 35-year love affair with Montana. There I helped found the Gallatin County Family Planning Clinic, where I worked part-time as an outreach coordinator. I also substitute taught at the high school and taught full time there in 1972-1973. It was during this time that I decided to follow in my father's footsteps and become a lawyer. When we moved to Missoula in 1973, I enrolled at the University of Montana Law School and graduated with honors three years later. My Dad was shocked! I was in law school at the same time my younger brother was, and my Dad couldn't have been prouder. When I graduated, he was appointed a special assistant attorney general for Montana so that he could make the motion to the Montana Supreme Court that allowed me to be a licensed attorney in Montana. His name is proudly displayed in my office on my license to practice.
My career in law progressed nicely until 1990, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and my life changed forever. My doctor suggested that I and several other women who shared the same earth-shaking diagnosis start a support group to help each other recover from the disease and get on with our lives. Our support group evolved into the Breast Cancer Resource Network, which was founded to help newly diagnosed women and their families cope with the diagnosis. It flourishes to this day.
I learned a lot from that experience. Things really do happen to people that are scary and over which they have no control. It's not always their fault, and it's not always fair. I learned to be more compassionate with those in need. I learned that responding to misery with kindness makes a huge difference in people's lives. And, I learned that it's important to fight for what matters and to do what's right. These teachings have greatly influenced my life as mother, wife, and attorney. Having compassion for people and their problems is the right thing to do, and what I say and how I respond makes a huge difference in their lives. If elected, I pledge to practice with compassion and to employ the wisdom of these teachings everyday.