The Honorable Judge Karen D. Lawson

The Honorable Judge Karen D. Lawson, 66, of Perry, passed to eternal rest on February 25. She was surrounded by family and friends whose love and support meant so much to her throughout her life and in her final hours. Judge Lawson dedicated her legal career to protecting children. She was fierce in doing so. She made history as the first female to serve as Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division judge, being elected to three terms.

Judge Lawson was a trailblazer in reforming the court. She led numerous programs to support, improve and enrich the lives of young people. She introduced the Intensive Community Rehabilitation (ICR) program, a unique program to keep high-risk, felony offenders off the streets while progress is made toward their rehabilitation.

Additionally, Judge Lawson established the Restitution Work Detail program to ensure victims receive timely reimbursement for their losses.  She was also dedicated to the New Voices for Girls program to assist young girls in building self-esteem. 

Her leadership extended to an innovative Achievement Program to help young drug offenders turn their lives around and the establishment of a Gardening Project, where she taught the children in detention to grow their own fruits and vegetables which they then provided to those in need or prepared for their own meals. 

Continuing her innovative approach to the court, Judge Lawson hosted prominent speakers with the goal of motivating children. Speakers have included Lev Polyakin of the Cleveland Orchestra, and Lebron James' manager and cofounder of LRMR Marketing, Randy Mims.  She also led a partnership with The Fine Arts Association to bring a professional theater production to the Lake County Detention Center. 

Prior to taking the bench in January 2009, Judge Lawson practiced law for twenty-six years.  She served as Magistrate for Lake County Juvenile Court and Acting Judge for Painesville Municipal Court.  Her private practice was devoted primarily to family and juvenile law. Most notable to Judge Lawson, she served as Guardian Ad Litem for hundreds of Lake County's abused and neglected children.

Earlier in her career, Judge Lawson was selected by Ohio Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery as a Managing Attorney of the Cleveland office. She also served as Assistant Prosecutor during former Congressman Steve LaTourette’s tenure as Lake County Prosecutor. Judge Lawson often spoke of the honor of working for Congressman LaTourette and considered him her mentor.

Community involvement was also important to Judge Lawson, She was a dedicated member of the Painesville Rotary Club, believing strongly in the importance of their mission.

Judge Lawson was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1982, and began her legal career serving as an assistant Lake County Public Defender.  She earned her Juris Doctorate from Cleveland Marshall College of Law.  She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  She was admitted to practice in the Federal Court for the Northern District of Ohio in 1983 and in the United States Supreme Court in 1999.

Karen is predeceased by her beloved husband, John Kinch (December, 2022) and her Golden Retriever family members, Reilly, MacKensie and Kelsey.  She is survived by her mother, Madelyn; sisters Virginia and Madelyn (Lynn) and brother, Roy; niece, Sarah; nephew, Steven; all residing in Pennsylvania, and the Pedone and Ostrowski cousins. 

Karen was a force for good in this world. She lived life on her own terms, in both stilettos and sneakers. She loved spending time with her best friend and soulmate, John, at their lake house and could never take enough photos of an eagle in flight or a sunset. They traveled to many fun destinations, enjoying every moment and memory.  Cycling with her pals was a passion she enjoyed for many years. She was a member of St. Cyprian Catholic Church, Perry.

Her passing has left an irreplaceable void in the lives of many friends and especially that of her mother and siblings who cherished and loved her without end.

Now, our dear Karen, as you join John, you fulfill your final desire – you and John, together forever. Rest in God’s perfect peace. We love you.

A mass of Christian burial will be held on Friday, March 10 at 10:00 am at Saint Cyprian Catholic Church, 4223 Middle Ridge Road, Perry. Visitation will be held prior to the mass, beginning at 9:00 am. 

For those wishing to mark Judge Lawson’s legacy, donations may be directed to: Forbes House, a domestic violence shelter for children and families, and the Painesville Rotary Club,