Brenda Desmond, renowned tribal judge, dies at 72

MISSOULIAN STAFF

Renowned Montana Judge Brenda Desmond died on Monday in Minnesota where she had been treated for brain cancer. She was 72.

Desmond graduated from law school in Buffalo, New York, and in 1978 served as an advisor to the Crow Tribal Court. She worked for the Montana Legislative Council from 1982-1986 where she staffed the Committee on Indian Affairs. She was a faculty member at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law in Missoula and served as a supervising attorney in the Indian Law Clinic, according to a news release. 

She served as an associate justice of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Court of Appeals and was a chief justice and associate justice of the Fort Peck Tribes Court of Appeals. 

Desmond was a standing master in Montana’s Fourth Judicial District Court from 1994 to 2020. She then joined the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Public Defenders Office, serving as a family defense attorney until 2021 when she was diagnosed with cancer. 

Desmond is survived by her three brothers, two sons and five grandchildren. 

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