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Longtime US Judge Charles Lovell is leaving his Helena bench
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Longtime US Judge Charles Lovell is leaving his Helena bench

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Charles Lovell, Brian Morris, Dana Christensen

U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell, left, with Brian Morris, center, and U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, gather before the swearing-in ceremony of Morris as a federal judge in this file photo. 

Charles C. Lovell

Charles C. Lovell

After 36 years of service in the District of Montana, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles C. Lovell is leaving his Helena bench.  

Lovell, 91, has assumed inactive senior status, which means he will keep his title but relinquish his pending caseload and no longer maintain a chambers in the Helena Division. 

"Judge Lovell is an institution in the District of Montana, and his absence will be felt throughout the federal court family," a press release from the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana says. "The judges and staff of the District of Montana deeply appreciate Judge Lovell’s contribution to the administration of justice in Montana."

Lovell stepped down as an active judge at age 70 on June 14, 2000, but continued to handle about half of his usual caseload in the Helena Division as a senior judge, the Associated Press reported. He cited health reasons for his decision in a letter to President Bill Clinton at the time, the story says. 

Lovell was not available for an interview Wednesday. 

According to the press release from the court, Lovell was nominated by President Ronald Reagan on March 27, 1985, to a new judge seat. He was confirmed by the Senate on April 3, 1985, and received his commission on April 4, 1985. 

Kaczynski initial appearance drawing

Ted Kaczynski, left, makes his initial appearance before U.S. District Court Judge Charles C. Lovell in this rendering by former Independent Record artist Wayne Klinkel. 

Lovell is known for approving the search warrant for Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski's cabin near Lincoln and presiding over his first few court appearances in 1996 in Helena. He was also the first federal judge to overturn a law mandating background checks on handgun buyers, the Associated Press reported. 

Before his time on the bench, Lovell graduated from the University of Montana in 1952 and entered active duty for the U.S. Air Force as a weapons controller. He transferred to active reserve in 1954 and reached the rank of captain before he was released to honorary retired reserve in 1967.

Lovell began his legal career in Helena following his graduation from the University of Montana School of Law in 1959. He was in private practice from 1959-1985, and served as the chief counsel for the Office of the Montana Attorney General in Helena from 1969-1972.

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