Cavan Sworn In As Montana's Newest U.S. Magistrate

Dec 1, 2016

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters administers the Oath of Office to Timothy Cavan, as members of Montana's judiciary look on.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka

Timothy Cavan is Montana’s newest U.S. Magistrate Judge. He was sworn in today and will serve in the Billings Division. 

Chief Judge Dana Christensen presided over the investiture ceremony before a standing room only crowd in the federal courtroom.


Cavan comes to the federal bench after a career in private practice, as a Federal defender, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. 

Attorney Anthony Gallagher, executive director of Federal Defenders of Montana, praised Cavan for his excellence, devotion to duty, honesty, and integrity.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka

Attorney Anthony Gallagher is the executive director of Federal Defenders of Montana and Cavan’s former boss. Gallagher’s advice to Cavan is to remember where he came from.

“And Tim has such a varied background,” he says. “I wanted to emphasize with him the things that he is going to have to remember as he sits there in judgment of individuals and in judging the remarks and comments and papers that will be filed before him by the lawyers and advocates for each side.”

U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter, also Cavan’s former boss, says Cavan’s background will serve him well on the bench. Cotter says Cavan understands the plight of the indigent and the need for counsel to “level the playing field” from his years as a federal public defender.

As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Cotter says Cavan was the hardest working attorney in his office who handled the most complex civil cases, and sometimes was called in for criminal cases.

“Here is a person who spent 32 years in the courtroom as a trial lawyer knowing all of the things that go 

U.S. Attorney for Montana Mike Cotter calls Cavan fair, impartial, has common sense, and the right temperament for the federal bench.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka

into putting on a court case,” Cotter says. “The community and the state of Montana can be confident that he is a person that can deliver as a judge. He’s fair and impartial. He’s just a great, great person.”

Lately some judges and the judicial system has comes under attack with accusations of activism or bias. Cotter says those accusations cause harm, but the judiciary doesn’t have a publicist to explain why they made their decision, “It is in the briefs. It is in the orders that they sign and send out. People have to read them to really understand them.”

Cotter says in his 40 years of legal practice, “I’ve lost cases. I’ve won cases. But I’ve always felt my clients have gotten a fair shake with the various judges we’ve appeared in front of.”

Gallagher says a free and independent judiciary is extremely important in our system of checks and balances.

He says Cavan, “having been on both sides of the courtroom table is now going to weigh those thorny problems that may come from the political branch as well and I think he is well equipped to do that.”

Cavan succeeds Judge Carolyn Ostby who retired after serving nearly 15 years as U.S. Magistrate, first in Great Falls than Billings.  Full-time magistrate judges serve 8 year terms. 

Tim Cavan's family helped him don his judicial robes. After the ceremony they joined him for a family photo.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka