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Dear Judge: Can you PLEASE muzzle that woman…and the press

In its third motion for protective order my least favorite tourism company asks the court yet again to stop the plaintiff from filing motions in the public court file.  Instead they want a special rule that requires us to give them five days notice before we can file a document so they can bring a motion asking the court to seal it or block us.  Kind of like an early warning anti-missile system.  We must tell them before we launch then they try to shoot us down before the paperwork can hit the courthouse file.

To justify this procedure, the defense attacks me yet again.  According to them I’m: a) self-serving; b)misrepresenting the facts; c)  garnering media attention; d) circumventing an existing court order.

I know I know.  You’re probably getting tired of reading about defense lawyers picking on me over and over again in the blog.  Trust me so am I.

But this time in its motion the company also attacks the media.  They charge: ” The media stories are contaminating the potential jury pool with false narratives.”

This is bothersome.  It is an echo of the “fake media” mantra that has been recently taken up around the country.

I believe we all need to stand up  for our right to engage in free speech and talk to the media if they are interested enough to ask.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

U.S. Constitution Amendment I.

Photo: Nala on her 9th birthday. 

Attachment:  Declaration of Karen Koehler in Support of Free Speech and the Press:  Koehler Decl. First Amendment

Lawyer v. Lawyer part 4 I guess


After Thanksgiving, my brother sisters and I decide to sort through the few remaining boxes of mom’s things.  The contents of two storage units and a condo have been reduced to a pile of certificates, photos, and little treasures.  We are at Greg and Laurie’s craftsman house.  Sitting around the living room.  Creating our respective piles.

Our favorite is the 10×14 Sears portrait of chubby baby Greg.

In my pile is a report card.  From Kindergarten.  Says: am a good girl.  Follows instructions.  Plays well with others.  Is reserved and quiet.

Today Lewis Kamb wrote a follow up article to his series called Lawyer v. Lawyer.  Kindergarten Karen is not involved in this story.

Photo:  My brother, sisters, dad and step mom on Thanksgiving

Judge tosses out John Henry Browne’s lawsuit against me.


Though irritated, I did not lose a lot of sleep over John Henry Browne’s filing of a lawsuit against me and my law firm for defamation over our handling of the civil wrongful murder action we filed against his client.

First, I believe in the power and righteousness of the First Amendment.

Second, truth is a complete defense.

Third, I would back our exceptionally fabulous Free Speech attorney Bruce Johnson against JHB any day of the week.

Today King County Superior Judge Jim Rogers agreed and threw out the defamation lawsuit.  The case had barely begun.  After receiving the complaint we filed an answer.  Then Bruce filed a CR 12b6 motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

Judge Rogers converted it to a CR 56 motion for summary judgment.  Meaning he considered all the facts and evidence as opposed to ruling simply on the merits of the pleading.  He then ruled the complaint should be dismissed.  The fair reporting privilege applied.  Free speech won the day.

Here is Judge Rogers’ Order:  order-granting-defendants_-motion-for-dismissal-under-cr-56-11-18-16

Photo:  Me and the girls footloose and fancy free in Rome right after JHB sued me.

Backstory of how the McNamara Death Case ended up on Crimewatchdaily


Here is the backstory of how I ended up on Crimewatch Daily.  After defense lawyer John Henry Browne accused me of soliciting the media on behalf of my clients.

EB:  We will be sitting down to interview Tracy and I wanted to see if your clients would be interested in speaking with us as well?

K3:  My clients have elected to focus on the litigation for now and not do any additional interviews.

EB:  Thank you for getting back to me.  We have interviewed Tracy and her attorney and always prefer to present both sides.  If your clients change their minds and would like a voice in this piece as well,  please let me know asap.

K3:  The children have declined to participate with further media pending resolution of the case.  This included 48 hours who wanted to do an interview.  And the last king 5 interview they did not participate in either.  I do request that you sit down with me so that I can share their side of the story.

The show aired while the defendant, Browne, and her other lawyer Bob Siderius were sitting across from us in our office.  Taking the depositions of our clients.

Photo:  still from crimewatchdaily.com


On the One Year Anniversary of A Disaster – the Defendant goes on a media blitz


One year ago, Seattle experienced its worst traffic disaster.  A converted amphibious military vehicle built for World War II went across the center line of our most notorious bridge into the side of a school bus.   Five international students were killed and over 50 more students, tourists, and others were injured.    Firefighters who performed the rescue operations still become emotional when thinking about the disaster.

At a time when we should be remembering the families of the dead, encouraging and helping the survivors, a media blitz is being waged by the owner of Ride the Ducks.

Now he is entitled to speak and share his opinion.  As a former news entertainer he certainly knows how to give a good interview.

But it is upsetting for the victims I represent that he is doing so.

Last month Mr. Tracey filed an affidavit trying to get me to stop talking and sharing.  He accused me of bad mouthing his company.    His lawyers did in fact obtain a protective order so that I cannot share what is being discovered in this case.  But Judge Shaffer also upheld my first amendment rights.  So here is what I have to say.

A defendant who is sorry does not claim that the driver of the bus that was hit by his duck – may also be at fault.

A defendant who is sorry does not try to dismiss a wrongful death claim on an archaic legal technicality because a dead student’s parents live in Korea instead of the US.

A defendant who says they are sorry sorry sorry to a reporter but who has never told a single victim in person, by telephone, by email, or by any act or deed that they are sorry – is not accepting responsibility.

A defendant who is truly sorry steps up.  He does whatever he can to make things right immediately.  He advances funds to help pay the victims’ funeral and medical expenses.  He cares for surviving relatives and helps them travel to be with their dying child.  He doesn’t let the financial burden fall upon the public.

He doesn’t use the one year memorial as a public relations opportunity.

Photo:  Michelle Esteban’s twitter feed




The Day Ride the Ducks Tried to Shut Me Up


I have a job that is part of my soul.  This means I fight for my clients with every ounce of my being.   Sometimes people (typically those I sue) don’t like that.

The owner of Ride the Ducks Seattle is Brian Tracey.  He has been investigating me  by reading my Twitter feed, watching tv and reading the news.  After completing his studies he filed a declaration to support a motion to prevent dissemination of discovery materials in the 20 cases we have filed against his business for the death and injury of victims of the Ride the Duck Aurora Bridge crash.

Mr. Tracey says that my Twitter feed is: “intentionally inflammatory, inaccurate and to my mind designed to mislead the public about the facts of her case.  I also believe these inaccurate posts are part of a broader campaign to manipulate the media to publish stories that amplify these inaccuracies while helping market her law firm’s practice.”

He accuses me of “publishing falsehoods,” engaging in a “campaign to discredit RTDS’ safety worthiness,” casting RTDS in a negative light” by claiming the defense was “citing a federal law that was discriminatory and harbored anti-Asian sentiments.”

To top it off he cites to John Henry Browne’s defamation lawsuit against me on behalf of Tracy Nessl  making the insinuation that I must be a habitual defamer.

You can read his entire declaration below.

I was pretty ticked off when I read his accusations.  I hurt my knee a month ago and can’t run off steam.  So I wrote an opus that went on for about 15 pages.  Then slept on it and cut it in half.  Ultimately I decided not to defend myself.  Instead I pointed out the real reason why the case has been in the news and listed the headlines:

  • When the fifth victim died
  • When the NTSB preliminarily reported that the left axle housing (on Duck 6)  had likely failed.
  • When the NTSB preliminarily reported that a recommended fix to the left axle housing had not been performed.
  • When the WUTC suspending the RTD operation
  • When Brian Tracey testified in front of the WUTC
  • When the WUTC announced 463 public safety violations
  • When the WUTC fined RTD $222,000 for the violations
  • When the WUTC fine was rejected by its three member panel and increased to $308,000
  • When the Mayor opposed RTD resuming operations until its unsatisfactory safety rating was resolved
  • When a new route was agreed to by the City of Seattle over the Fremont and Ballard Bridges
  • When after the suspension RTD began limited operations of its modern duck fleet.  “We’re thrilled” said Brian Tracey
  • When another duck ran into a car in lower Queen Anne March 31, 2016
  • When another duck ran into a car in lower Queen Anne April 5, 2016
  • When another duck ran into a car in downtown Seattle June 23, 2016

The Court heard the motion.  Judge Shaffer granted the protective order that all photos, documents or other materials collecting in discovery including discovery inspections are to be used for litigation purposes only (and not disseminated to the media).  And she added in this language:  Nothing about this order limits counsel from, within the constraints of Rule of Professional Conduct 3.6, communicating with the media or from making social media posts or sharing information in public records.

Decl of Brian Tracey

Photo:  This is the nefarious tweeted photo of Andrew at the Duck Inspection that resulted in Ride the Duck’s protective order motion

Lawyer vs. Lawyer



June 1, 2016 3:31 PM

Hi Karen, I recently came across your post on “The Velvet Hammer” blog describing purported excerpts from John Henry Browne’s emails to you during communications over the lawsuit involving Tracy McNamara.  I am interested in speaking with you about this when you have some free time.  Please give me a call.  Thanks,

Lewis Kamb, Reporter The Seattle Times

June 1, 2016 7:00 PM    JHB to VH

So honored you included my in your Blog, so sad you need to promote yourself.  The press big time local really wanted to  know if you had trademarked your self appointed moniker !!!  I gave them the full sad story about you creating your life rather than just living it.  They will do a story, expect a call.  Reminder you started this.  Velvet “Clamor” was not a typo.  Best.  John.

June 1, 2016 10:01 PM      VH to JHB

That blog entry was written because I decline to bear your continued threats and insults in silence.

June 2, 2016 12:21 PM    JHB to VH

I hope you take this seriously.  It is very sad you need to broadcast your personal angst via a blog.  I suggest a journal.  This blog makes you look like a fool, and was taken that way by the reporter.  I am truly sorry about your Mom we only have one of those.  I have a pleading I will send to your registered agent…  I don’t want to be accused of extorting your firm again.  In trial now.   Will get pleading to (you) next week.  Your blog just makes me look good, thanks John.

June 2, 2016 1:02 PM   VH to JHB

You can stop writing insulting emails to me any time now.

June 2, 2016 1:08 PM   JHB to VH

No problem, but if you include me in your pathetic blogs, then you start it, get it?  Have a nice day.  John

June 2, 2016 1:32 PM   VH to JHB

You can stop writing insulting emails to me any time now.


And that is how Lewis Kamb’s article came to pass.

Further you affiant sayeth not.

Photo: The front page of Tuesday’s paper taken  by Catherine Fleming



Official Press Release: Owen v. State – Stevens Pass Tree Fall Case




This is the official press release relating to the Owen v. State tree fall claim.

 September 5, 2014

Re: Estate of Tim Owen, Estate of Cheryl Owen, Jessica Owen, Jaime Mayer,
Steven Mayer, Jeremy Owen v. State of Washington…

Steven Mayer, Tim Owen, Jaime Mayer, Jeremy Owen, Jessica Owen, Cheryl Owen

The family members who survived the December 21, 2012 tree fall incident on U.S. 2 have settled their claims against the State of Washington for $10 Million.
In the days leading up to the tragedy, a combination of unusual weather events led to a highly dangerous situation in Chelan County. Soil was soft from earlier warmer and wetter weather. This increased the tendency for trees to lean. Heavy snowfall occurred, along with freezing temperatures and light winds. Trees were covered with especially high snow loads.

As a result, in the days before this tragedy, hundreds of trees were breaking and falling. Just three days earlier, on December 18, Chelan County had issued a Declaration of Emergency. The county was taking extraordinary measures to ensure public safety. Local drivers were asked to restrict travel. Even utility workers were restricted from restoring power due to the danger of falling trees. The State DOT did not echo any of these warnings to the general public. The Owen family was travelling from Bothell to Leavenworth. The only warning sign issued to the travelling public on U.S. 2 was “traction tires advised.”

Trees had been falling across U.S. 2 in the vicinity of where the Owen vehicle would be hit. Less than 12 hours before the fatal strike, another large tree fell near the same location. At around 1:30 p.m. the Owen family was almost at milepost 79, when a leaning, snow- and ice-laden 125-foot-tall grand fir tree, snapped and fell upon them.

Tim and Cheryl Owen were killed instantly. Jessie Owen, Jaime Mayer and Steven Mayer were seated in the middle and severely crushed. Jeremy Owen was in the rear. When Jeremy regained consciousness, his first thought was that everyone else had perished.

Later in the day, after the terrible scene was cleared and despite the danger, the State re-opened U.S. 2. That evening and the next day the trees continued to fall. A WSP officer twice requested that DOT close the roads. Each time they said no. Another tree fell within the same milepost as the Owen incident. This time, the tree struck a vehicle carrying four people including one who was pregnant. Only after this second major injury event, did the DOT close U.S. 2.

The State is generally not responsible for healthy trees falling and injuring innocent passersby. In this case, based upon casual inspection the tree did not appear to be rotten. It also was located outside of the required clear zone on the side of the roadway. However, the family claimed that the State should be responsible when it knows of extremely dangerous conditions that prevent its roadways from being reasonably safe for ordinary travel. In those situations, it has a duty to close its roads. This has been done regularly by the State in situations of avalanche or wild fire danger.

The State recognized that in this case, it could be found to have failed its duty to protect motorists by not closing a dangerous roadway. Though it maintained that other forces caused the incident, the State requested that the Owen family hold off on filing a lawsuit. The State instead requested that the parties participate in non-adversarial mediation.

The family was still reeling from the deaths of Tim and Cheryl Owen in addition to surviving their own catastrophic injuries. Despite receiving the best medical care possible, Jessie, Jaime and Steven have been left with major lifelong physical disabilities.

Past medical bills were in the several millions of dollars. Future medical and care expenses were projected to be even greater.

Preparation for the mediation took an entire year. Teresa Wakeen, a professional mediator, was selected to conduct the proceeding. Each side developed and explained their theory of the case. From a legal standpoint, there were no other cases where a governmental entity had been found liable for failing to close a road. The family pursued this case to make a point: it was not okay for WSDOT to leave the state highway open when Chelan County was closing its local roads because of the same dangers. The family wanted to ensure this would not happen again.

Ultimately, during the mediation, the State accepted that it was at risk to be found partially responsible for the incident. The family agreed to compromise their claims and accepted the State’s offer of $10 Million. The settlement money will be used to pay for past medical expenses and provide for the future needs of the survivors.

The family has issued this joint statement:
“From the moment the tree struck our car to this very day, we have been surrounded by friends, relatives, and even strangers who have done their best to help us. We can’t thank all of you enough.
The State acted humanely and compassionately towards us during the entire year we worked on the mediation. There were no accusations. There was no fighting. We were treated with dignity and respect, even though at times we agreed to disagree.
We hope that by financially acknowledging our loss, that the State will be more proactive in protecting the travelling public from known dangers. Temporarily closing a roadway may be an inconvenience. But a short delay is a small price to pay for the life of a loved one.”

The State’s team included executives from WSP, WSDOT and risk management. The team of Assistant Attorney Generals was led in the mediation process by AAG Gary Andrews. The family was represented by Karen Koehler of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan. Also assisting from the firm, were attorneys Ray Kahler, Dan Laurence, Paul Stritmatter and Garth Jones.

Information provided by:
Karen Koehler

Graphic by Duane Hoffman of Hoffman Design

Love the Owens


Tired of fake reality tv.

Try the true life story of the survival and recovery of the Owen family.  Brought to you by – the Owen Family.

According to the news:  On December 21st around 1:20 p.m. The Owen family was traveling on Highway 2 near Stevens Pass when a tree fell onto their suburban and claimed the lives of 58-year-old Tim Owen and 56-year-old Cheryl Reed. Also in the vehicle were the couple’s son, Jeremy, daughters Jessie and Jamie, and son-in-law Steven Mayer. Jeremy was released from the hospital but the other three are still being treated for serious injuries.

In order to keep friends and family posted, Christy, a close family friend began a blog called  Lovetheowens.  In this typically charming excerpt, Steven who is in a transitional hospital, comes back to Harborview for a test.

“He got to visit with Jessie while he was there, & she was excited to watch as a 2 foot long camera was inserted through his nose to take a look at his vocal chord.”

Thousands of readers tune in every day to see how the kids are progressing and to cheer them on.

If you want to be inspired.  If you want to watch the triumph of the human spirit under the toughest of circumstances.  Read this blog:  http://lovetheowens.wordpress.com/

Photo:   Left to right Steven (married to Jaime); Timothy (father deceased); Jaime (daughter); Jeremy (son); Jessie (daughter); Cheryl (mother deceased).

Top 10 reasons I wear a hoodie in Seattle

10.  Don’t like umbrellas

9.  Not as easy to lose as a hat

8.  Doesn’t smoosh hair down like a hat

7.  Like versatility of putting it up or down

6.  Keeps neck warm so don’t need scarf

5.  Won’t blow off from the wind and fly down the street

4.  Comfy

3.  Street solicitors tend to leave you alone

2.  Hello – it rains here

1.  Easy fix for a bad hair day

Check out a recent interview by Super Lawyers about my blog. Yes, I'm a lawyer. But I'm also a human being. I have a doggie named Nala, three daughters, eat brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts for breakfast, and wear jeans as often as possible when not in court.
Favorite Quotations

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
— Nelson Mandela

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've to say, and say it hot.
— D. H. Lawrence

Why slap them on the wrist with a feather when you can belt them over the head with a sledgehammer.
— Katharine Hepburn

Truth, when not sought after, rarely comes to light.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.
— Langston Hughes

There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.
— Jane Austen

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. — Edgar Allan Poe

If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn't you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing! — Margaret Thatcher

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
— Dr. Suess

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.
— Abraham Lincoln

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. — Desmond Tutu

True eloquence consists in saying all that is required and only what is required. — La Rochefoucauld

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop

The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free. — Oprah Winfrey

If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative. — Woody Allen

The soul never thinks without a picture. — Aristotle

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. — Muhammad Ali

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. — Stephen Hawking

It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand. — Apache proverb

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost. — Dalai Lama

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
— Anne Frank

Learn to laugh; it is a discipline to be mastered. Let go of the everlasting burden of always needing to sound profound. — Richard J. Foster

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. — Albert Einstein

Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain. — Helen Keller

Remember that lost time does not return. — Thomas á Kempis

If thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small. — Proverbs 24:10

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. — Gertrude Stein

It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom. — Albert Einstein

The right of trial by jury shall be preserved. — 7th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees. — Ludacris

And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.
— Erica Jong

Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment. — Judge Learned Hand

You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefullness, But still, like air, I'll rise. — Maya Angelou

The moment that justice must be paid for by the victim of injustice it becomes itself injustice. — Benjamin Tucker

He who keeps his eye on results cannot give himself wholeheartedly to his task, however simple or complex that task may be. — Howard Thurman

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. — Mahatma Ghandi

Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. — Flannery O'Connor

We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles. — Jimmy Carter

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. — Simone Weil

It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world. — Alexander Solzhenitsyn

It is high time that the ideal of success should be replaced by the ideal of service. — Albert Einstein

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. — Elie Wiesel

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. — Bill Cosby

The time is always right to do what is right. — Martin Luther King Jr.

I had rather attempt something great and fail, than to attempt nothing at all and succeed. — Robert Schuller

It is very easy to break down something. You can take a stone and throw it through that window; that is easy. Try fixing it, and that takes longer. It takes longer to help someone who has been broken. That’s the work you’re doing. — Desmond Tutu

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. — Annie Dillard

Mine honor is my life; both grow in one; Take honor from me, and my life is done. — William Shakespeare

To straighten the crooked you must first do a harder thing – straighten yourself. — Buddha

A thought is an idea in transit. — Pythagoras

Fall seven times, stand up eight. — Old Japanese proverb

No generalization is wholly true, not even this one. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Of what use is eloquence? He who engages in fluency of words to control men often finds himself hated by them. — Confucius

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. — Martha Graham