Missoula Attorney Datsopoulos Left Legal Legacy | National News


Missoula attorney Milton Datsopoulos, whose legal career has spanned from student misdemeanors to the core of Montana’s mining economy, has died at the age of 81.

“My sons Kyle and Kevin and their friends in high school used to say, ‘If you’re guilty, call Milty,'” said Dennis Washington, founder of Washington Companies, who considered Datsopoulos his closest friend for 60 years. They also shared a business relationship that helped catapult Washington from a Missoula-based construction company to a multinational corporation.

Butte’s Evan Barrett recalls that Datsopoulos played a key role as Washington’s advisor and confidante when Washington Co. bought Butte’s largest copper mine from ARCO in 1985. The mine became Montana Resources and continues to be an important contributor to the local economy.

ARCO had shut down the mines at Butte and times were grim, Barrett said. Datsopoulos helped moderate and attended a meeting at his home in Missoula in August 1985. Among those who participated in the discussion of the potential mine purchase were Washington, Barrett, Don Peoples Sr., US Senator John Melcher and Governor Ted Schwinden.

Datsopoulos was also instrumental in deals to bring the Butte Water Company into public ownership and in the Washington Companies’ acquisition of Montana Rail Link.

Datsopoulos died on March 12. Born in Missoula, he attended Sentinel High School and the University of Montana. In 1965 he graduated from UM Law School with honors.

Barrett said Datsopoulos was highly regarded by Larry Elison, his former law professor at the University of Montana.

“[Elison]said Milt was the most brilliant student he’s ever had,” Barrett said.

Datsopoulos established his own law firm in 1974, which eventually became known as Datsopoulos, MacDonald and Lind, PC. There he represented a wide range of high profile, needy and controversial clients.

He served as counsel for a group of plaintiffs who accused the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena of decades of sexual abuse, which led to a $20 million settlement in 2015 and a commitment by the church to adopt whistleblower protection policies.

That same year, he defended former University of Montana Grizzly football player Beau Donaldson in a rape case in which Donaldson was convicted.

Family members noted his penchant for after-work courting at Missoula’s Stockman’s Bar on Front Street, where “Milt was the only person who had his own knob on the Stockman’s Bar cash register”. Missoula attorney and executive director of the Washington Foundation, Mike Halligan, recalled meeting Datsopoulos there one afternoon shortly after Halligan left the state legislature in 2003.

“He asked, ‘How come you didn’t apply for government affairs with Washington Corp? You should apply.'” Halligan said. “I’d never worked in a corporation – only as a private attorney or in the courthouse. He said, ‘I’m going to talk to Denny and ask him to look at you.’ At 52, it’s hard to get a job out here. I know his recommendation meant a lot.”

The Datsopoulos family reveled in his colorful personal life, noting: “He drove Jaguars all his life, but he didn’t mind if they were stolen, which they were more often than you can count on your fingers.” He kept his love to authentic Greek feta cheese, Scotch whiskey, Frank Sinatra and the UM Grizzly sports teams. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Grizzly Scholarship Association on Milt’s behalf. Milt’s service will be held on March 26, 2022 at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church at 130 South Sixth Street East in Missoula. Online condolences can be left at gardencityfh.com.

Duncan Adams contributed to this story.


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