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US judge retires from bench in Montana after 36 years

US judge retires from bench in Montana after 36 years

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A judge in Montana known for approving a search warrant for the Unabomber’s cabin and presiding over his first few court appearances in 1996 has retired.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles C. Lovell, 91, has announced he is leaving his bench after 36 years of service in the District of Montana, the Independent Record reported Wednesday.

Lovell has assumed inactive senior status, meaning 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,” the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana said in a statement. “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 in June 2000, citing health reasons. But he continued to handle half of his usual caseload as a senior judge.

Lovell was not immediately available for an interview.

Lovell is known for approving the search warrant for Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski’s cabin near Lincoln. Lovell also was the first federal judge to overturn a law mandating background checks on handgun buyers.

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 until 1985 and served as the chief counsel for the office of the Montana attorney general from 1969 through 1972. He also served in the U.S. Air Force as a weapons controller.

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