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Judge Karen Townsend

Judge Karen Townsend

Karen Townsend, the first woman to take the district court bench in Missoula County, announced on Wednesday plans to retire in August. 

"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 a letter to Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath.

After serving the Missoula County Attorney's Office, Townsend was special prosecutor for Beaverhead, Sanders and Glacier counties. She was elected to the Fourth Judicial District in 2010 and re-elected in 2016.

"I will miss the work and the colleagues, but the time has come to pass the torch," she wrote.

The state Judicial Nomination Commission, which recently oversaw the process in appointing Judge Shane Vannatta to Missoula's fifth District Court bench, will nominate candidates to fill Townsend's upcoming vacancy. The governor will ultimately make the final selection, which must be confirmed by the state Senate. 

A press release Wednesday morning from Missoula County numbers the cases over which Townsend presided in the thousands. Of particular note is the Mountain Water condemnation resulting in the city's ownership of the water system.

She was recently named 2019 Judge of the Year by the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Missoula, and in 2017 she was honored with the Karla Gray Access to Justice Award from the state Bar of Montana.

Townsend currently directs the Trial Advocacy Program at the University of Montana's Alexander Blewett III School of Law, where she has also served as a coach to the competition. 

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