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Attorney and mediator Karen Matcke Crosby will work with clients who need expert help on a wide range of land use, environmental, business, and family issues.

Virginia Graziani

Redwood Times

Karen Matcke Crosby is an attorney who believes that most issues are better settled through mediation rather than litigation, which is why she is also a certified mediator.

”Mediation is key because too often litigants have better uses for their money than lining lawyers’ pockets,” Crosby explained. “For example, parents with children to take care of, elders with health issues, and environmentalists who could be using the money to save the environment [instead of going to court].”

Crosby moved here a year and half ago at the invitation of friends who thought her background and combination of skills were needed in Southern Humboldt.

Now she is ready to hang out her shingle in SoHum, offering both her legal and mediation expertise to local residents with a range of issues including land use zoning, permitting, subdivision, and titles; general business law and partnerships; environmental and CEQA-based issues; and family problems, particularly those involving disabilities, elder care, and child care.

Although she has not yet found a permanent office location, Crosby can see clients either at Eric Kirk’s law office in Garberville, or at any convenient place, including the client’s home. She welcomes clients from Eureka to Ukiah, but especially from SoHum.

Crosby grew up in Danville, then a sleepy town in Contra Costa County in the east Bay Area near Mount Diablo. By 1988, when she had completed her bachelor’s degree in political science at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and her law degree from Santa Clara University, her hometown had become a growing suburb with a population of 30,000.

”I had an uncle who owned farmland that became a very nice country club,” Crosby recalled. “I’ve seen both the improvements and the drawbacks to fast development.”

Her work experience includes both private practice and government work. As a student she interned for California’s then-lieutenant governor Leo McCarthy and for state senator Nicholas Petris, who represented Oakland in the state legislature.

After graduation, she went to work for the state’s legislative council as a deputy attorney advising the state senate and assembly. But in those days, during the administration of Governor George Deukmejian, state salaries were so low they did not match the payments on her private law school student loan.

Crosby returned to Danville where she worked for a private law firm, handling cases involved with various aspects of land use and family law. She became well versed in some complex laws, including the Subdivision Map Act and the California Education Code.

She also served as deputy city attorney for the city of Hayward, Calif. She has worked with the Hopi and Navajo tribes, and has consulted on cases in many different California counties and in the states of Arizona and Hawaii

Crosby is also a certified mediator who emphasizes mediation as an essential step in settling conflicts of all kinds, whether they are disputes between family members or land partners, or between citizens and government agencies.

”I have a passion for protecting the environment,” Crosby said. “This area is unique in the state.” She noted the inflexibility of state and federal regulations that fail to account for the special characteristics of a region like the North Coast.

”The lawyer’s job is to present the factual differences of the area,” she said. “It’s about balancing interests for the good of the next generation, and the generation after that, and the generation after that. That’s what we do if we’re good at our craft. No single interest should dominate; neither people nor the government should necessarily win.”

Riffing on the old saying, “They can’t see the forest for the trees,” Crosby continued, “Too many people are focused on their own trees. It’s a big forest.” She added, “You remember that when you drive up here.”

She is interested in working with local businesses, particularly helping sustainable business and enterprises that create products that can be sold outside the county. Green and sustainable building is another area of expertise, as she is knowledgeable about LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, so she can help builders who want to enter the program.

On the family law side of her practice, her special interest is in assisting and advocating for children with disabilities and their parents and caregivers.

”I’m not afraid to go outside the box to seek solutions,” Crosby said. “Sometimes the rules have to be reconsidered; they don’t always fit the circumstances.”

The best way to reach Crosby is by phone at (707) 223-1184. Her mailing address is P.O. Box 841, Redway, 95560. She can be e-mailed at, but she added that she’s not always quick to respond to e-mail, so she prefers to receive inquiries by phone.

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