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Christensen to take senior status as federal district court judge


U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen of Missoula has announced that he plans to assume senior judge status. 

According to the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, Judge Christensen's senior status will be effective upon the appointment of his successor. He informed President Biden and Montana’s congressional delegation of his decision by letter on Dec. 8. Senior status, which is retirement from active service while retaining judicial office, is available to federal district judges who satisfy certain age and length-of-service requirements. Senior judges typically take a reduced workload but continue to be eligible to preside over all types of federal cases.

Judge Christensen, who served as the Chief Judge for the District of Montana from 2013-2020, was nominated to the federal bench by President Obama and received his judicial commission on Dec. 6, 2011. According to a news release from the District of Montana, he took an active role in court governance and administration while balancing a full-time caseload during his tenure as chief judge. During that time, he oversaw the reorganization of the federal courts in Montana, consolidating the administrative functions of the District and Bankruptcy Clerk’s Offices and the Probation and Pretrial Services Office. He has served on the Ninth Circuit’s Wellness Committee (2013-2022) and Trial Improvement Committee (Sept. 2022-present). He is currently a Ninth Circuit Representative to the Federal Judges Association.

Judge Christensen was raised in Missoula and attended Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. degree in history in 1973. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 1976. He practiced law in Montana for 35 years before his appointment to the federal bench. He is a judicial fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, American Board of Trial Advocates, and the International Society of Barristers.

His move to senior status will create a vacancy in the district’s statutory allotment of three active-duty federal district judges. President Biden is expected to confer with Montana’s senators in selecting a nominee to replace Judge Christensen, and the nominee’s name will be presented to the U.S. Senate for its consideration and approval. The Honorable Brian Morris and the Honorable Susan Watters are the two other active duty federal judges in Montana.