Remembering Judge Karen Braaten, Class of 1979

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


Karen Braaten, a district judge in Grand Forks, died Saturday morning. She was 62.

Born in Fargo, Braaten started her legal career in the private practice in 1979. She was first elected as a judge in the Northeast Central Judicial District in 2000, and was re-elected twice, most recently in 2012.

Colleagues remembered her for fighting bravely against cancer.

"She missed very little was just amazing," said District Judge Sonja Clapp, calling her strong both mentally and physically. "She was a role model for any cancer patient."

Joel Medd, a retired district judge, had been helping fill in for Braaten off and on since about March, he said. He said she was so dedicated that she would come into work even when she was feeling ill.

"She had been battling cancer for years, and still always came to work and did a great job," Medd said.

Clapp said Braaten was as a very efficient, fair and intelligent judge.

"You could always count on Karen to probably know the answer if you had a question, as far as legal questions," Clapp said.

Drug court

Both Medd and Clapp remembered Braaten for her passion for the juvenile drug court. The goal of the program is to "reduce juvenile crime and substance abuse by referring youth to a court-managed treatment program which holds them accountable and emphasizes personal responsibility," according to the North Dakota Supreme Court's website.

Clapp recalled a convention she attended where a graduate of the program thanked Braaten for turning his life around.

"She just had a desire to help juveniles who were experiencing problems with addiction issues," Clapp said. "She just spent a lot of time overseeing that to make sure that these young people had every opportunity to do well and get back to society and school and be free of their addictions."

Braaten was sworn in as judge in 2001 by her late father Frank Kosanda, a retired Grand Forks County judge, according to Herald archives. She was married to Jerry Braaten and had four step-children, according to the state Supreme Court's website.

Clapp said she first met Braaten in the 1970s while they worked in social services in Grand Forks County. Braaten earned a bachelor's degree in social work before graduating from the UND School of Law in 1979, according to the state Supreme Court's website.

"I think that Karen was every bit as much of a social worker as she was a judge and an attorney," Grand Forks County State's Attorney Peter Welte said. "So she understood the premise of juvenile drug court and she understood the ideology behind the program."

"She was just a loving, compassionate, decent person," Welte added.

A visitation will be held Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m., with a rosary held at 4:30 p.m. and a 7 p.m. vigil service at the Historic Norman Funeral Home.

A funeral service will be held 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Holy Family Catholic Church in Grand Forks. A visitation will be held an hour beforehand.