On Wednesday, January 17, 2024, 8KPAX reported that the Montana Judicial Standards Commission had filed a formal complaint against Judge Deborah Kim Christopher, who serves in the 20th Judicial District covering Lake and Sanders counties. The complaint charges Judge Christopher with numerous unexcused absences from court since 2021 without providing adequate notice or documentation.

Specifically, the complaint says Judge Christopher missed as many as 19 scheduled “law and motion” court days in 2021, where pending cases are updated, and new cases are heard. While some absences were related to court business or holidays, six lacked consistent reasons given. In 2022, she canceled up to 11 additional law and motion days, not including two weeks covered by retired judges when she took medical leave for almost three months. Five of these cancellations provided insufficient explanation.

When Judge Christopher took sudden medical leave in April 2022, she notified that other judges had jurisdiction but didn’t properly update the Montana Supreme Court, resulting in over a month delay in assigning a replacement. Upon returning, she canceled two more days for undocumented personal reasons shortly after. The complaint states her ongoing failures to attend court were disruptive and did not provide clear reasons for the absences.

This is not the first complaint about Judge Christopher’s conduct. Last October, she abruptly awarded temporary custody of a child to the father who rarely saw the child, preventing contact with the mother, saying she wanted to exercise the “stress muscles” of the child. However, the Montana Supreme Court intervened and reversed the decision, reassigning the case to another judge.

Judge Christopher has served on the 20th Judicial District bench since being elected in 2000. She previously worked as a prosecutor and served as an Army JAG Corps Captain during Operation Desert Storm.

 

 

Source: 8KPAX