Attorney of the Month Award for Pima County


Karen Nygaard

July 2015

By Michele Mirto

Commissioner Karen Nygaard has been selected as the Outstanding Pro Bono Attorney of the Month for July.  Karen began to volunteer with Southern Arizona Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) immediately after being admitted to the bar in 1982.  Over the course of her career she has assisted several hundred clients.  Since retiring from the bench Karen has been a frequent participant in the VLP’s Divorce Clinics where she helps self-represented litigants prepare the documents necessary to file their case.  She also assists clients through the VLP’s Self-Service Center Project at Superior Court.

In addition to her work with clients, Karen has served on the VLP Advisory Board since 1998, where she has helped to increase the ranks of volunteers and mentored law students and staff.  While the service Karen has provided to individual clients is impressive, it is her total commitment to the delivery of legal services to the poor that led to her selection for this award.   The VLP staff is proud to call Karen a supporter, but more important, we are honored to call her a friend. 

Q & A WITH Commissioner Nygaard

Where did you go to college? Have a Bachelors, Masters and JD all from the U of A

How long have you lived in Tucson?  Since 1968

What is the history of your practice of law?  Judicial Clerk for the Court of Appeals, Deputy Pima County Attorney, Private practice for O’Connor Cavenaugh in Phoenix and DeConcini McDonald in Tucson, Judicial Officer, Superior Court, Pima County.

What are your current practice areas?  Retired, doing some pro tem work and volunteer work.          

What drives you to volunteer with VLP?  We all need to give back. I am an avid advocate for access to justice for all.

Other VLP volunteers you'd like to give a shout-out to?  All who volunteer.  They all deserve kudos.  It is just the right thing to do.  Also, the SALA VLP staff who work selflessly to further the goal of making access to the courts obtainable for all. 

Favorite Tucson restaurant?  Feast. 

Things you do when not working or volunteering your legal services?  Spend time with my family, friends and doggies

If this award was accompanied by prize money, how would you spend it?  I would donate it to the VLP program.

Best thing about being an attorney in Tucson?  The quality of the bench and the bar.

Worst thing about being an attorney in Tucson?  Sometimes we all have to go up to Maricopa County.

Are you a dog or a cat person?  Yes and Yes

Favorite song?  Mendel’s Halleluiah Chorus and the Beatles’ Let It Be

Person you most admire?  Too many to name, but if I had to pick a few, I would say Hon. John Hawkins, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Albert Einstein.

Food you can't live without?  Bread and cheese.

Any bad habits?  Of course.

Best vacation destination?  Anywhere that has good food, interesting history and beautiful scenery.