I grew up in Polson, MT where my parents, Dick and Keenie Christopher owned Harbour Pharmacy on Main Street. I spent a lot of time in the summers in Plains and Thompson Falls with my maternal grandparents, Frances and George Cone. I graduated with honors from the University of Montana and after a year in Boston, returned to complete my law degree at the University School of Law.
After law school, I was commissioned into the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps as a captain who advised and prosecuted for the command in courts-martial for the U.S. Army. I handled civilian criminal actions in the Federal Court System in the Western District of Washington as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. I bridged the gaps between the command on Fort Lewis, law enforcement for the State of Washington and the Federal Courts. Because the Army doesn’t spend a lot of time teaching lawyers to be Army Officers, I elected to go through U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, GA. I was one of only 25 females in a class of 750. The scary part of that was I had only been in the Army 3 months and I was the ranking female. I still didn’t know how to wear my uniform or who to salute, let alone how to inspect or march troops. But I made my mistakes at a place that wasn’t my duty station. I stood in the door like the rest of the girls so the guys behind us would have to jump and I earned my wings which helped back in the 80’s when I was an officer, female and a lawyer….three strikes that were eliminated or at least mitigated by the wings I wore and their recognition of my airborne status.
After serving in the U. S. Army JAG Corps, I got back to Montana by accepting a prosecution job with the Cascade County Attorney’s Office in Great Falls, my dad’s home town. Then I finally got home to Polson where I worked as a private attorney for French, Mercer, Grainey and O'Neill which included appointments as public defense counsel in conflict cases and other general civil cases that are a regular part of a Montana practice. I ran and was twice elected in the Republican primary as Lake County Attorney/prosecutor and then elected the last 3 terms as District Judge serving for the last 18 years. This experience puts me in a unique place to understand my role as District Judge.
My educational background as a Liberal Arts major is not the typical start for a Juris Doctorate but the diversity it has allowed me to bring to the job has been extraordinarily beneficial. I am a team builder. I love to discover the abilities of my people and then put them in a place to shine. The result is they do a great job because they love what they do and the people we serve get the greatest job the team can provide. I have had the incredible privilege to serve this country doing a job I believed in, for people for whom I cared, in a place I loved and then they paid me for it. I have been an enlisted Navy wife, a commissioned Army Captain, a single mom, the fortunate member of a close family and a small community. I got to play basketball at the beginning of girls’ athletics for Coach Robin Selvig as he began at the University of Montana in 1978. I was a Resident Assistant, the U of M Homecoming Queen and the first girl to serve the U of M Athletic Equipment Manager as a Ball Girl cause I could catch a football better than most of the boys they had doing it. I have lived on both the East Coast in Boston and the Norfolk area and on the West Coast at Fort Lewis. I have practiced law under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Federal Law, Washington State Law, Montana State Law and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Code. I have been private counsel, defense counsel, prosecutor and district judge. I have worked with law enforcement in the military, the Department of Defense, the Federal system, the state, county and tribal systems. I was elected by and served as President of the Montana Judges’ Association whose members are District Judges, the Supreme Court Justices and the Water Court Judges.
Finally, as a result of the opportunities unfolding in my career, I handled the most severe type of criminal charge in the successful prosecution of a capital homicide jury trial through sentencing with the Montana Supreme Court affirming the death penalty. I have sat as the district judge on a negligence case which involved Hyundai as a defendant where the attorneys appearing in front of me made 8 to 10 times my salary. But, with the able assistance of my judicial assistant, law clerk, special master, and jury, we successfully managed and concluded a case where the damages were in excess of $8,000,000 and the punitive damages awarded by the jury were $240,000,000 making that case one of the five largest verdicts in the U.S. at the time.
I have had amazing opportunities as a girl from a small town in rural western Montana. I chose to serve my country, state and county rather than stay in private practice or in a bigger place on either coast where there was more money and opportunity. I have never regretted it. I am privileged to live in the same town as my Dad, Dick Christopher and my brother and sister-in-law, Jeff and Julie Christopher with my other siblings, Tiara Christopher Knowles and Courtney Christopher in Missoula. It is an honor to serve in a place I love for people that matter. I want to continue to serve as your District Judge for the Twentieth Judicial District. I look forward to meeting you throughout the process of this election.