Former Missoula County Chief Deputy Attorney Karen Townsend
Announces Bid for District Court Judge
Missoula, Montana — December 10, 2009 — Today, former Missoula County Chief Deputy Attorney Karen Townsend announced her bid for election to the 4th District Court, which serves Missoula and Mineral Counties. Townsend, who served eight years as Chief Deputy County Attorney, brings extensive experience as a prosecuting attorney, substantial trial experience, and a tireless work ethic to the position.
Townsend is seeking appointment to the seat which
District Judge Douglas Harkin is retiring from next
Three years ago, Townsend mounted a valiant campaign
for the district judge position in Missoula and Mineral
Counties and came close---within less than a 1,000
votes out of 40,000 votes cast to victory. Judge Dusty
Deschamps won that election and has joined many others
to support Townsend in this campaign.
“Karen has been my trusted colleague for most
of our careers,” said District Judge Dusty Deschamps. “Karen’s
years of broad-based, untiring and compassionate service
to others through education, public service and the
law has made the world a better place for all of us.
I can’t think of anyone who is more deserving
or better suited in every possible way to serve our
community as a district judge.”
Prior to accepting her past position as Chief Deputy
for the Criminal Division, Townsend served as Deputy
County Attorney for a total of 18 years between 1976
and 1998. During that time period, she also served
as Chief Staff Attorney for the County Prosecutors
Bureau of the Montana Attorney General's Office in
Helena, as Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney in Billings,
and as Director of Training for the National College
of District Attorneys.
A career of “firsts” marked Townsend’s
ascent to Chief Deputy Attorney. Townsend was the first
woman chosen as Outstanding Law Student for the University
of Montana Law School and the first woman Outstanding
Phi Delta Phi Graduate for the Northwest Region of
the legal fraternity. She was the first woman prosecutor
for Missoula County to prosecute criminal cases; the
first woman named as a special prosecutor for the State
of Montana; the first woman chosen as an Outstanding
Lawyer for the Western Montana Bar Association; the
first prosecutor to participate in the Advanced Trial
Advocacy Program at UM School of Law; and the first
woman to direct that program. Further, Townsend was
the first Montana woman elected as Fellow of theAmerican
College of Trial Lawyers and the first woman to serve
as State Chair of the Montana Fellows; and she was
the first woman to serve as Missoula County Chief Deputy.
“I am used to making tough, yet compassionate
decisions, holding individuals responsible for their
actions, while treating them fairly,” says Townsend. “I
learned the value of hard work from my father, a lawyer
with over 50 years of practice. Should I be elected
District Judge I will work diligently to be proficient
in every aspect of law, just as he was.”
In addition to her work as a prosecutor, Townsend
has substantial experience with civil law through her
work with the Advanced Trial Advocacy Program at UM
Law School and with the UM Trial Competition Team.
Early in her career, she was recognized as a leader
having been chosen as a member of the Human Rights
Commission, and selected as its chair in 1979.
Townsend has a history of extensive community service,
including current and past memberships on the following
volunteer boards: Big Brothers, Big Sisters; Family
Violence Council; Breast Cancer Resource Network; American
Cancer Society; Montana Human Rights Commission; and
St. Patrick Hospital. In addition, Townsend was a 1996
YWCA Salute to Excellence winner in the category of
public service, and served as the first woman president
of the Missoula Kiwanis Club.
"Karen Townsend's reputation in Missoula is impeccable,” says
Missoula’s Mayor John Engen. “Her commitment
to public service, to the community, to education,
and to the practice of law, coupled with real, practical
experience make her an ideal candidate for District
Court judge. I'm happy to support a person of her caliber
After leaving her work with the Missoula County Attorney’s
Office at the end of December 2006, she has broadened
her legal experience. Townsend has served frequently
as substitute judge for both Missoula Municipal Court
and Missoula County’s Justice of the Peace Court.
She has presided over initial appearances, arraignments,
sentencings, evidentiary hearings, jury and non-jury
trials, and civil proceedings. Karen has been hired
as a special prosecutor by other Montana counties to
consult with or review possible prosecution cases.
Additionally, she has served as pro-bono counsel for
indigent clients in family law cases. Townsend has
also been asked to consult with civil attorneys about
civil lawsuits and offer opinions about the claims
and the potential defenses.
“The citizens of Missoula and Mineral Counties
couldn’t do any better than electing Karen Townsend
to the 4th Judicial District,” says Mae Nan Ellingson,
attorney and youngest delegate to the 1972 Montana Constitutional
Convention. “She has the intellect, experience,
work ethic, competency, and impeccable sense of fairness
necessary for rendering informed and fair decisions.
No one ever wants to find themselves, a family member,
or a friend in court, but if it happens, you want an
unbiased, compassionate, and learned judge. Karen is
Some of the Endorsements for
Karen Townsend, Candidate for District Court Judge
Missoula, Montana – December
“Karen has been my trusted colleague for most
of our careers. Karen’s years of broad-based,
untiring and compassionate service to others through
education, public service and the law has made the
world a better place for all of us. I can’t
think of anyone who is more deserving or better suited
in every possible way to serve our community as a district
judge.” - District Judge Dusty Deschamps
“Three years ago, Karen ran a valiant campaign
for the district judge position in Missoula and Mineral
Counties. That campaign was invigorating and our committee
is ready to again reach out to voters and give them
the opportunity to elect a great District Court Judge
and the first woman ever to serve in that position.
The citizens of Missoula and Mineral Counties couldn’t
do any better than electing Karen Townsend to the 4th
Judicial District.” - Mae Nan Ellingson, attorney and youngest delegate
to the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention.
"Karen Townsend's reputation in Missoula is impeccable.
Her commitment to public service, to the community,
to education, and to the practice of law, coupled with
real, practical experience make her an ideal candidate
for District Court judge. I'm happy to support a person
of her caliber and qualifications." Missoula Mayor John Engen
“I am pleased to add my endorsement and support
to the candidacy of Karen Townsend for District Court
Judge. I have found her to be thoughtful with
defined and balanced judgment. Her deep intellect,
public commitment and extensive legal experience make
her an outstanding professional for this position.
When elected, she will become the first woman District
Court Judge in Missoula & Mineral County. I encourage
your support of her candidacy.” - Bob Brown – Senior Fellow – Mansfield
Center & Retired Montana State Legislator
“Three years ago, with a then vacated court
seat open, our campaign committee enthusiastically
worked to elect Karen as the first woman ever to be
elected or appointed as a District Judge for Missoula
and Mineral counties. A race she narrowly lost.
With the retirement of Judge Harkin in 2010, we will
campaign even harder to reach voters in Missoula and
Mineral counties with the message, It’s Time
for Townsend.” - Mike Frellick, Retired Commander of the Missoula Division
of the Highway Patrol
Townsend named to Board of Directors of the Missoula YWCA
Karen Townsend, Missoula attorney, has been elected to the Board of Directors for Missoula's YWCA. This Board governs the Y, ensuring that its programs in combating domestic violence, working with victims of sexual assault, providing transitional housing for homeless women and children continue to function and thrive. The Board hires and supervises the executive director, makes policy and is responsible for raising the money needed to keep the programs running.
Townsend named an Official Observer to the Drafting Committee of the Uniform Commission on State Laws
Karen S. Townsend, Missoula Attorney, and former Chief Deputy County Attorney for Missoula County has been named an Official Observer to the Drafting Committee of the Uniform Commission on State Laws. This particular drafting committee is writing model legislation on the Electronic Recording of Statements for criminal suspects. Townsend was named an Observer since she chairs the Ad-Hoc Committee of the American College of Trial Lawyers on this same subject. As an Official Observer, Townsend is invited to attend all meetings of the drafting committee, receive all written materials provided to the committee, comment on the proposals, and make suggestions of her own. She cannot, however, vote on the model legislation itself. Townsend attended meetings of the drafting committee in April and December, 2009 in Chicago, IL. The model legislation will go before the annual meeting of the Uniform Commission next summer for final approval.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, April 2007 Missoula County Chief Deputy Attorney Karen Townsend to Participate in Canada-U.S. Legal Exchange
Missoula County Chief Deputy Attorney Karen Townsend was invited to participate in the 2007 Canada-U.S. Legal Exchange. The Exchange is held to address concerns faced by the legal community and judiciary of both countries. Sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers, the Exchange was held in April and September 2007 in Washington D.C, and Williamsburg, Virginia, and Montreal and Ottawa respectively.
A total of 27 lawyers and judges from the two countries have been invited to the Exchange. Members of the United States delegation will include the following judges and College Fellows: Chief Justice John Roberts, former Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Associate Justice Stephen Breyer of the United States Supreme Court; The American fellows are: University of Oklahoma Law School Dean Andrew Counts, Oklahoma City, Brian Crosby, Buffalo, NY, Lauren Handler, Morristown, NJ, Jim Bausch, Omaha, Nebraska, Jim Eisenbrandt, Overland Park, Kansas, Thomas Fritz, Rapid City, SD, and Karen Townsend, Missoula. Canada's delegation will be headed by Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin, Associate Justice Marie Deschamps and Associate Justice Marshall E. Rothstein, of the Canadian Supreme Court.
Townsend, the only Montanan invited to participate, is a candidate for the District Court Judgeship. She was chosen for the Exchange because of her leadership qualities and active involvement in the ACTL. Townsend is a former state chair of the Montana Fellows.
Proposed topics for the Canada-U.S. Legal Exchange include: civil liberties in a time of security concerns; reliance upon the use of the law of other nations in the resolution of legal issues; independence of the judiciary in the legal profession; criminal process; career of a young lawyer; and conduct of civil litigation in the age of technology.
Following the completion of the Exchange, the American College of Trial Lawyers created a special committee to consider and review one of the topics discussed during the Exchange. This Committee is looking at the legal issue of requiring law enforcement to videotape statements from detainees. Townsend was named Chair of this special committee.
Townsend named to St. Patrick Hospital's Community Ministry Board
Karen S. Townsend, newly retired Chief Deputy County Attorney for Missoula County has been named to the Community Ministry Board of St. Patrick Hospital. This board oversees all of the operations of the hospital, supervises the CEO, approves medical staff applications, sets policy and reviews the hospital budgets.
After joining the Community Ministry Board, Townsend was named to the Quality and Safety Committee of the Board. This board committee works to ensure that the healthcare given at St. Pat's is of the highest quality.
In 2009, Townsend was named Chair of the Mission and Community Benefits Committee of the Board. This Committee is composed of Community Ministry Board Members and Advisory Committee Board Members. It's function is to ensure that St. Pat's fulfills its mission statement: As People of Providence, we reveal God's love for all, especially the poor and vulnerable, through our compassionate service. As Chair of the Mission and Community Benefits Committee, Townsend also sits on the Executive Committee of the Board.
Townsend has previously served as a member of the hospital's Advisory Board, and served as its Chair from 2001-2002. She then became a member of the St. Patrick Hospital Foundation Board from 2002-2004.
Local Attorney Karen Townsend Wins Distinguished Faculty Award
Charlestown, S.C. – June 29, 2006. At a ceremony today, Karen Townsend was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Award by the National College of District Attorneys. That award has been given to fewer than 100 lawyers from around the country. The College was founded in 1970, and since that time has conducted continuing legal education programs for prosecutors. Each year, the College presents between 40-50 programs, some in venues around the country, and others at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia SC. Between 12 and 15 faculty members participate in each course, so the award truly recognizes excellence. Karen was surprised by the award, but honored to be included among the elite faculty of the college. She has taught for the College since 1990, most recently at this June Career Prosecutor Course during which she received the award.
Missoula County Prosecutor Assumes Directorship of UM Law School's Advanced Trial Advocacy Program
Missoula, Montana – November, 2002. Chief Criminal Deputy Attorney Karen Townsend will now direct the Advanced Trial Advocacy Program hosted by the Law School at the University of Montana. The Advanced Trial Advocacy Program is designed to provide new lawyers with training in the skills of courtroom advocacy. This Montana program is unique in that it is staffed by some of the state’s most distinguished trial lawyers who donate their valuable time for the week-long period of the training.
The program was founded by Sam Haddon, a prominent Missoula attorney. Haddon directed the program for several years, but as he leaves Missoula to begin service as a U.S. District Court Judge in Great Falls, Townsend, the first female attorney to be asked to serve with the Trial Advocacy Program, will assume its directorship. For more on the Trial Advocacy Program, see UM President Dennison’s 2005 Report at www.umt.edu/urelations/report/2005/18.htm
Missoula Attorney Karen Townsend Inducted a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii – March, 2000. At the 2000 National Meeting of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Karen Townsend, Missoula County Chief Criminal Deputy Attorney, was inducted as a Fellow of the College.
The American College of Trial Lawyers is generally considered the premier trial organization in America and describes itself as "dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession." According to the College, "Fellowship is extended only by invitation, after careful investigation, to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality."
Fellowship in the College is limited to no more than one percent of the practicing attorneys in any state or province, so Townsend's induction as a Fellow is indeed an honor and a recognition of her outstanding legal accomplishments and high standards of professional practice.
Karen Townsend Awarded YWCA's "Salute to Excellence" Award for Public Service
Missoula, Montana – February, 1996. At its annual Salute to Excellence banquet, the Missoula YWCA presented the award for public service to Karen Townsend. Karen is a Missoula County Deputy Attorney with a long list of community service activities, including work with: Family Violence Council, Child Sexual Assault Council, Breast Cancer Resource Network, Big Brothers and Sisters, Kiwanis Club, Missoula Correctional Services, and numerous legal service committees. In many of these roles, Karen has served as founder, chair, or president.
Update: Since receiving the Salute to Excellence Award, Karen has continued service with most of the organizations she has worked with, and additionally has served on the St. Patrick Hospital Advisory Board (its President in 2001-2) and the St. Patrick Hospital Foundation Board. For her work, she has been presented with distinguished service awards by the National College of District Attorneys, Big Brothers and Sisters of Missoula, and St. Patrick Hospital.
Missoula Deputy County Attorney Named “Outstanding Lawyer” by the Western Montana Bar Association
Missoula, Montana – May, 1994. The Western Montana Bar Association has announced the selections for its first ever Outstanding Lawyer Awards. Among the three Montana lawyers chosen for this year’s initiation of the awards is Missoula Deputy County Attorney Karen Townsend. The awards are determined by a vote of the Board of Directors of the Association upon nominations submitted by its members.
Missoula Deputy County Attorney Accepts Position as Director of Training for the National College of District Attorneys
Houston, Texas – December, 1988. Deputy County Attorney Karen
Townsend will leave her position with the Missoula
office to assume a position as Director of Training
for the National College of District Attorneys. The
National College, located at the Law School of the
University of Houston, provides training programs for prosecutors around
the nation. Its goal, according to the College, is "to help prosecutors
fulfill their responsibilities efficiently, effectively and ethically."
job will be to plan and implement National College
training programs. (Karen returned to her position
with Missoula county in 1990.)
Missoula Deputy County Attorney Appointed Chief Staff Attorney for County Prosecutor Services at the Montana Department of Justice
Helena, Montana – August, 1980. Marc Racicot, Bureau Chief of the County Prosecutors Services Bureau, has selected Karen Townsend, a Missoula County Deputy Attorney, to serve as his Chief Staff Attorney. Townsend will help to coordinate efforts of County Prosecutors across Montana and to serve as prosecutor for smaller counties faced with major cases challenging local capacities. (Karen returned to her position with Missoula county in 1982.)
Townsend Named Chair of the Montana Human Rights Commission
Helena, Montana – January, 1979. Karen Townsend, a Missoula County Deputy Attorney, has been elected Chair of the Montana Human Rights Commission. Townsend was named to the Commission in 1977 by Governor Tom Judge and will now chair the Commission for the next two years.
First Woman Named UM Outstanding Law Student and UM and Northwest Regional Phi Delta Phi Outstanding Law Graduate
Missoula, Montana – May, 1976. UM Law School graduate and Montana Law Review editorial board member Karen Townsend has been named the Law School’s Outstanding Law Student for this year and both the local and the northwest regional Outstanding Law Graduate by the legal fraternity Phi Kappa Phi. In both cases, Townsend is the first woman to receive these recognitions. She will begin service as a Missoula County Deputy Attorney this summer.