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 Rules of Practice - Updated March 2019  The Rules of Practice, Forms and Orders for the Montana Fourth Judicial District Court for Missoula and Mineral Counties.

Department 1

Hon. Leslie Halligan

 Picture of Honorable Leslie Halligan

Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Hon. Leslie Halligan as a new interim judge to the Fourth Judicial District Court to replace Judge Ed McLean, who retired on April 30.

Halligan serves as the new judge that will preside over cases in Missoula and Mineral counties.

Since 2012, Halligan has been one of the standing masters of district court, presiding over cases referred to her by McLean and district court judge Karen Townsend that related to domestic relations, family law and parenting plans, as well as some of those involving intervention in neglect and abuse of children.

Department 2

Hon. Robert L. Deschamps, III


BA, University of Montana, 1966; JD, University of Montana, 1970.

Appointed District Judge in Montana 4th Judicial District Department 2 in July 2006; elected to consecutive six year terms, 2006, 2012.

Deputy Missoula County Attorney 1970

Missoula County Attorney, 1971-1998. (elected to seven consecutive four year terms)

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Montana, 1982-1998.

Chief Prosecutor, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, 1999-2006.

Special Prosecutor for 18 Montana jurisdictions, 1999-2006.

Part-time private general practice of law, 1970-1976; 1999-2006

Professional organization offices held:

President of the National District Attorneys Association for 1994-1995. (Board

member, 1982-2006)

President of the Montana County Attorneys Association for 1974-1975

President of the Western Montana Bar Association for 1979-1980.

Chair, Montana Supreme Court Commission on Rules of Criminal Procedure,  1980-1992

Montana Bar Association, Montana liaison to the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, 1988-1994

American Bar Association, council member for the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division, 1986-1994

 Trustee, of the National College of District Attorneys, 1994-1998

Chairman , board of directors, American Prosecutors’ Research Institute, 1995-1996. (Board member, 1993-1998)

District attorney representative on the national Executive Working Group, comprised of the Attorney General of the United States, four district attorneys and four state attorneys general. 1993-1997

Member, Montana Supreme Court District Court Council, 2010 to present.

Civic and Community activities:

Service on a variety of state and local committees and boards, including a term on the Montana Board of Crime Control, the Montana Criminal Justice Standards and Goals Advisory Council, the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, the Missoula City-County Gambling Commission, and various federal, state, local and tribal working committees.  

Family info:

Married September 18, 1965 to wife Rebecca (Becky) H. Deschamps. (B.S.; R.Ph.) and together have four adult children:  Krystin, Mikal; Robert IV, Jean-Marc and 11 grandchildren: six boys and five girls. 


Department 3

Hon. John W. Larson







District Judge John W. Larson has served the Montana state trial bench since 1993.  In 1996 he established Montana’s first drug treatment court.  This Court has served as a model for other similar courts around the country.   

 Judge Larson has been an active member of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), serving two terms on its National Board of Trustees.  He has also served as President of the Montana Judge’s Association.  Judge Larson has served on the Board of Directors of the Montana Legal Services since 2000.

Judge Larson received national recognition for Judge of the Year for the National Court Appoint Special Advocate (CASA) Program. On June 2, 2003, Judge Larson shared the Harold E. Hughes Exceptional Service Award with Judge Glade F. Roper of Tulare County, California, as an exceptional rural professional from the National Rural Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.   He has taught courses to Judges, treatment providers, social workers, and probation officers from around the country. In October 2006, the Montana Board of Crime Control recognized Judge Larson’s vision and leadership in Juvenile Justice.  In January 2009, he received the groundbreaker award from the Missoula Habitat for Humanity Program based on his efforts to involve youth in Habitat’s construction projects. In September 2011, he received the Karla M. Gray Equal Justice Award from the Montana Bar Association.  He shared the award with Judge Kurt Krueger of Butte. 


Department 4

Hon. Karen S. Townsend

Townsend Pic

In November, 2010, she was elected as a District Court Judge for the 4th Judicial District, State of Montana, serving Missoula and Mineral Counties.  The District Court is a court of general jurisdiction having responsibility for felony criminal matters, juvenile delinquency matters, Dependent and Neglected Children matters, sanity proceedings, guardianships, probate actions, civil matters worth more than $7,500.00, divorce and custody matters, and trial de novo for misdemeanor criminal cases from the Justice Courts.   

Ohio Wesleyan University  (B.A. 1964); University of California (M.A. 1965); University of Montana School of Law (J.D. with honors 1976);  Deputy County Attorney, Missoula County Attorney’s Office 1976-1980; Chief Staff Attorney, County Prosecutor’s Services Bureau, Montana Department of Justice, 1980-December, 1981; Senior Deputy County Attorney, Missoula County Attorney’s Office, 1982-1988; Director of Training, National College of District Attorneys, 1988-1990; Senior Deputy County Attorney, Missoula County Attorney’s Office, 1990-1998; Chief Deputy County Attorney Missoula County Attorney’s Office 1998-December 2006; Special Assistant  United States Attorney, 1984-1988, 1990-2006; District Court Judge, 4th Judicial District for the State of Montana 2011-present.  

Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers; Named a Super Lawyer for the Northwest Region; Western Montana Bar’s Outstanding Lawyer in 1994; Named winner of the YWCA’s Salute to Excellence Award for Public Service in 1996; Awarded Distinguished Faculty Award from the National College of District Attorneys in June of 2006; Member, American Bar Association; State Bar of Montana, Member, Montana Supreme Court Commission on Criminal Jury Instructions; Faculty Member University of Montana Advanced Trial Advocacy Program, 1992-2001, Director of program in 2002-present;  co-coach of University of Montana’s Trial Advocacy Competition team 1998-2010, primary coach since 2010; extensive local, state and national trial advocacy teaching experience; Member and later Chair of Montana Human Rights Commission, 1977-1981;.   

Past Member and President of Board of Directors for Big Brothers and Sisters, Founding member of Family Violence Council, Founding Member of Missoula’s Sexual Abuse Team, Founding Chair of Breast Cancer Resource Network, Former Board Member of St. Patrick Hospital Community Ministry Board, member of the Quality and Safety Committee and Chair of the Mission and Community Benefits Committee; Former Member Board of Directors for Missoula Correctional Services and Member, Board of Directors of YWCA.  Member of the Kiwanis Club of Missoula where I served as the organization’s first woman president.  Following retirement from the Missoula County Attorney’s Office in 2006, she served as special deputy county attorney for Beaverhead, Sanders and Glacier Counties on criminal prosecution matters and she has been retained as a expert witness by civil attorneys in several lawsuits to offer an expert opinion on certain legal issues in those lawsuits.  


Standing Master

Brenda Desmond

Brenda Desmond

Brenda C. Desmond has been a District Court Standing Master for twenty years.  She received her law degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School and her undergraduate degree in philosophy from Leuven University in Belgium.

 Her experience prior to becoming a standing master includes: teaching at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law for nine years in the areas of Indian Law, legislation, appellate practice and legal writing; working for the Montana state legislature drafting bills, working on Montana code revision and serving as staff attorney for the House Judiciary Committee and several interim committees.  She has also served as a staff attorney for Alaska Legal Services and Montana Legal Services and as a legal advisor to the Crow Tribal Court.  She has been an appellate justice for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Court of Appeals and for the Fort Peck Tribal Court of Appeals.

As a standing master, under the authority of Mont. Code Ann.§§3-5-122 et. seq., Desmond conducts preliminary matters in adult criminal cases, including arraignments, setting bond and conditions of release.  She also conducts preliminary matters in juvenile delinquency proceedings, including detention and release hearings.  In civil matters, on referral from District Court Judges or by stipulation of the parties, she conducts hearings, including final hearings, in dissolution of marriage and parenting cases, mental health commitment proceedings, guardianship proceedings and discovery disputes.  She acts as a mediator in the initial stage of child protection cases and serves as pro bono settlement master or mediator in approximately ten cases per year. She presides over the weekly sessions of the Missoula Co-Occurring Treatment Court, and its Veterans Treatment Track. Participants in both court programs have been charged with a crime and have mental health and substance abuse challenges that factored into the commission of the charged crime.  The Missoula court is patterned after similar courts around the country that promote community safety by providing long-term community-based treatment services along with monitoring and supervision.


Standing Master

Amy Rubin

Amy Rubin 2


Amy Rubin was recently appointed Standing Master for the 4th Judicial District Court.  She will work primarily with family law cases, for Judge Townsend and Judge Halligan.  Prior to this appointment, Amy was a partner in a private law firm, and worked with non-profit agencies providing legal representation under Violence Against Women Act grants through the US Department of Justice.  She has received the Crime Victim Advocate of the Year award, as well as the Missoula Family Violence Council Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award.  Amy received her undergraduate degree from Colorado College and is a 1989 graduate of the University of Montana School of Law.   In her spare time she enjoys horses, and playing ice hockey with her family. She is active in a number of community organizations.


Senior Staff Attorney
Standing Master

Charlotte Beatty

Charlotte Beatty

Charlotte Beatty has been a Senior Staff Attorney and Standing Master for Judge Deschamps since 2012. She began work for Judge Deschamps as a law clerk in 2006 after graduating from the University of Montana School of Law where she was an editor of the law review and received the Fran Elge and Margery Hunter Brown Awards. During her tenure with the Fourth Judicial District, Charlotte has received the Neil Haight Pro Bono Award, the Missoula Family Violence Council Attorney of the Year, the YWCA Salute to Women Award the State of Montana Judicial Employee of the Year, twice. Charlotte was instrumental in establishing the Family Law Self-Help Center in Missoula and has served on various community boards and committees. In her spare time, Charlotte spends time skiing, playing hockey and hiking with her son and four dogs.