Stewardship. It’s an old-fashioned word but it still rings true with the obligations and the opportunities we have to be sure that what we were given by those who passed before us is there in a usable way for those who come after us. It was made all the more real by the giants of the past generation who have passed recently for many of us.
I have the honor and privilege of serving you as district judge of the 20th Judicial District for Lake and Sanders Counties since being elected in 2000 for the last three terms and going on 18 years. As I seek your vote in my re-election this year, I want to reaffirm the commitment I made to you in 2000 of stewardship for responsibilities I’ve given. My prior elected office, as Lake County’s district attorney for two terms and six years before I assumed the bench, carried the same weight, responsibilities and opportunity for stewardship in the legal system we were given by those who came before us. The chance to help, to make a difference, to represent you, to respect the people before me by holding them accountable for their actions as men and women, and to the law our Legislature determines, has not always been easy but the trust that accompanied that responsibility is cherished by me.
Before I assumed elected office, I worked in civil practice in Polson with the French, Mercer, Grainey and O’Neill law firm, which I joined from Cascade County, where I was a deputy attorney. I had my chance to return to Montana from my service in the U.S. Army as an Airborne JAG (Judge Advocate General’s Corps) Officer. Recently I was considered for Montana’s federal U.S. attorney position. During my law career, I have practiced in private practice and tried hundreds of cases as a district judge and as an attorney. Most importantly I have had the privilege of serving you and my country for the bulk of my professional career.
I was mentored by Chief Justice Turnage. I practiced before District Judge C.B. McNeil as an attorney until I assumed the bench where I had the privilege of working with Judge McNeil for 13 years. I have handled cases as small as a traffic citation and as large as a capital homicide case where the defendant was convicted and sentenced to hang. During this last term, I sat as the presiding judge on the civil case concerning the death of three people and others injured due to the failure of a car manufactured by Hyundai. In that case, the jury awarded damages in the amount of $8.1 million and a punitive verdict of $240 million, which was the fifth largest verdict in the United States at that time. I have sat on the Montana Supreme Court when one of our current Supreme Court justices was unable to sit, including sitting with the full court listening to oral arguments.
I have had the privilege and honor to serve where I was raised here in Polson by my mother and father Dick and Keenie Christopher and to work where both sets of my grandparents lived, in Great Falls, where my Dad’s folks, R.J. and Almira Christopher lived, and currently in Sanders County, where my mom was raised by Frances and George Cone. Most importantly for me, I have had the chance to raise my sons Nick, Remington and Isaac in Montana.
Law has been a blessed career for me as it allowed me to serve the people with whom I was raised in a place I love. I would ask for your continued support in this next election year and look forward to using my experience and commitment to this land and people in continuing to serve you.
Deborah “Kim” Christopher is district judge in Polson.