The Montana Supreme Court has agreed to hear an “out-of-time” appeal filed on behalf of former Florence doctor Chris Christensen. In its May 29th order, the Court gave Christensen’s attorney Josh Van de Wetering 30 days to file the appeal.
Christensen was convicted at a jury trial last February in Judge Jeffrey Langton’s District Court on 22 counts, including negligent homicide, for over prescribing opioids. Two of his patients died from drug overdoses. Christensen was released on bond pending an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
Although Christensen’s attorney Van de Wetering did file an appeal in a timely fashion, he filed it in the wrong court. Rules require an appeal to be filed directly with the Supreme Court. And Van de Wetering had filed in the local District Court by mistake.
Without a timely appeal filed in the Supreme Court, Christensen was re-arrested for violation of his bond which was granted on the condition that an appeal was going to be filed. A bond revocation hearing was then held before Judge Langton at which Van de Wetering argued that his client should not be penalized for his attorney’s mistake.
County prosecutors argued that without a timely appeal Christensen should be jailed immediately and begin serving his sentence of 20 years with 10 years suspended.
Langton made what he called “a compromise” and agreed to continue the bond revocation hearing until June 6 to give the Supreme Court some time to either accept or reject Christensen’s request to file an out-of-time appeal.
The Supreme Court, on May 29, granted a hearing in the case under the rule which allows an out-of-time appeal to be filed “under extraordinary circumstances amounting to a gross miscarriage of justice.”