The U.S. Department of Justice and Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg will have another 30 days to resolve the lawsuit Van Valkenburg filed in February arguing the federal department has no jurisdiction over the local office.
Both Van Valkenburg and the Justice Department filed motions this week in Missoula’s U.S. District Court requesting the DOJ’s deadline to respond be pushed back to May 21. Federal guidelines originally required the department to respond by April 21.
Van Valkenburg filed suit against the DOJ in February – nearly two years after the department began investigating the County Attorney’s Office over alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases.
Van Valkenburg has refused to allow the department into his office, arguing it has no jurisdiction. He also rejected the DOJ’s attempts to negotiate a proposed settlement last year. That settlement recommended the county attorney hire in-house sexual assault investigators, mandate additional training for attorneys and cooperate with law enforcement officers, among the stipulations.
The documents filed Thursday indicate Van Valkenburg and DOJ may be ready to settle the matter.
“The parties intend to discuss the possibility of resolving amicably the subject matter of the litigation and agree that this can best be accomplished if the deadline to respond to the complaint is extended,” the DOJ’s motion read.
Van Valkenburg’s attorney, Natasha Jones, said she couldn’t comment on the negotiations, but said the department is working Montana Attorney General Tim Fox to resolve the issue.
Fox’s spokesman, John Barnes, said the Attorney General’s Office is in the process of reviewing case files provided by the DOJ.