A jurist who has been at the heart of some of western Montana’s most impactful cases, Fourth Judicial Court Judge Karen Townsend has announced that she will be retiring this summer.

Townsend was the first woman to be elected as a district court judge in Missoula County intends to step down on August 30.

One of the most high profile cases over which Judge Townsend has presided was that of University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson, who was charged with rape in 2013. Townsend remarked that the sheer amount of national and even international publicity that surrounded the trial was surprising to her.

“That was one that amazed me at the amount of publicity, not just local, but national and international,” said Townsend. “I was looking at this matter again not that long ago because I was asked to do a presentation to a group of judges about handling a high profile case, and this presentation happened to be in Guam. When I looked to see I was amazed that there were articles in the papers in Great Britain, and of course many of the national papers and the sports journalists, it was amazing to me.”

Johnson was found not guilty of rape in that case.

Another high profile case presided over by Judge Townsend has not even been fully resolved, that of the City of Missoula takeover of the Mountain Water Company.

“The case is not quite done,” she said. “The major parts are over, and what’s left is resolving the issue of how much the city has to pay of the attorney fees of the other side.”

A matter that Judge Townsend herself will decide.

“So, ultimately, we will decide. I did reach a decision a while back, but the Montana Supreme Court sent it back to me to do some more work on it, so we’re in the middle of that right now and there’s still some briefing going on before we can reach it. I clearly plan to get a decision out before I leave.”

Following her retirement Judge Townsend said she and her husband plan to move away from Missoula and settle in Colorado to be closer to their grandchildren.

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