Attorney General Fox Secures Agreements Resolving Dispute between Missoula County Attorney and U.S. Department of Justice

Agreements avert lawsuits, address concerns over sex assault cases

Today, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg announced an agreement whereby the Attorney General’s Office will oversee development and implementation of new standards and procedures for how the Missoula County Attorney’s Office handles sexual assault cases.

In a separate agreement signed by Montana Attorney General Fox, Missoula County Attorney Van Valkenburg, the Missoula County Commissioners, and the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), the USDOJ agrees not to file any legal action against the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, which likewise agrees to dismiss its pending complaint against the USDOJ.

The agreement between the Montana Attorney General’s Office and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office was formed pursuant to state law, which gives Attorney General Fox supervisory authority over county attorneys.

“My primary concern has been and continues to be that justice is served for victims of sexual assault crimes throughout Montana,” Attorney General Fox said. “Missoula County Attorney Van Valkenburg’s legal position regarding the USDOJ’s authority over his office is spot-on, and Montana law is clear: my office has the authority and responsibility in this matter. This robust agreement with the Missoula County Attorney’s Office reflects our commitment to holding the guilty accountable, protecting the innocent, and ensuring that victims are treated with the compassion and respect they deserve.”

The agreement between the Montana Attorney General’s Office and the Missoula County Attorney’s Office includes but is not limited to:

  • Developing policies and guidelines for sexual assault cases.
  • Ensuring county prosecutors are equipped to handle sexual assault cases.
  • Implementing or continuing important practices within the Missoula County Attorney’s Office regarding the handling of sexual assault cases.
  • Improved communication and coordination with law enforcement and community partners.
  • Seeking funding for expert witness expenses in Missoula and all Montana counties.

The Montana Attorney General’s Office will monitor the Missoula County Attorney’s Office to ensure full implementation of the agreement.

The agreement addresses the USDOJ’s concerns over the handling of sexual assault cases in Missoula County, but reaffirms that Montana Attorney General, not the USDOJ, has authority to address these concerns. The agreement builds on the specialized sexual assault prosecution training that the Montana Attorney General’s Office has already begun providing to counties throughout the state.

“I want to thank Missoula County Attorney Van Valkenburg for his steadfast willingness to cooperate with my office on this agreement,” Attorney General Fox said. “In the months and years ahead my office will be focused on making sure all of Montana’s county attorneys have the expertise and resources they need to prosecute sex assault crimes effectively and to ensure the victims are treated as they ought to be. All of us at the Montana Department of Justice are committed to doing everything within our power to protect victims of sexual assault.”