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Former County Attorney No Longer Ordered to Appear in District Court


Hill County’s former prosecutor is no longer ordered to appear in District Court in Havre. With less than 24 hours left before she was due to her first show cause hearing Thursday at 10 a.m., District Judge Daniel Boucher vacated all seven hearings.

On July 24,  Boucher issued seven orders that the embattled then- county attorney Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson appear in District Court Aug. 2 to explain why she didn’t show up to seven different hearings during the last days of her tenure. On Monday, a letter response by Cole-Hodgkinson, who officially resigned as of 8:01 that morning, was submitted. Deputy Attorney Karen Alley was sworn in shortly afterward. 

“I apologize for missing the deadlines,” Cole-Hodgkinson writes. “I have been largely away from the office for the past few weeks dealing with three rather overwhelming and unexpected personal matters.”

Cole-Hodgkinson continues, saying she will be out of the state Thursday. She prepared the belated judgments and the omnibus memorandums — the deadlines she missed and reasons she was ordered to appear in court — and asks the judge to vacate her hearings. 

She also offered alternatives in case Boucher did not want to vacate the hearings, including rescheduling the hearings or allowing her to appear by telephone. 

Boucher declined to comment today about why he vacated the hearings. 

While her District Court troubles have been resolved, Cole-Hodgkinson may have not seen the last of the Hill County Courthouse.

As of today, she is still ordered to appear to three show cause hearings to explain, this time to Justice of the Peace Judge Audrey Barger, why she was not present for Justice Court hearings. 

On Monday, Barger also received a letter from Cole-Hodgkinson, asking the judge to cancel the show cause hearings issued July 25. Cole-Hodgkinson says she didn’t know that then-Deputy Attorney Karen Alley, who had handled most Justice Court matters, needed her help. She will be out of the state Aug. 7 and unable to show up, she says in the letter.  

Barger, however, has not canceled the Justice Court show cause hearings. There is no “statutory authority” or case law , Barger’s reply to Cole-Hodgkinson says, that says a show cause hearing can be canceled on the grounds that she did not know her deputy attorney needed her help or because she has resigned. 

Cole-Hodgkinson’s motion to vacate was denied and she is still ordered to appear in Justice Court Aug. 7 at 11 a.m. in Justice  Court. (406) 262-7778
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