Keith A. Karlson is a founding partner of Karlson Garza LLC. Prior to founding KG LLC with Raymond Garza, Keith was a partner at another law firm where he represented Article 3 and 4 pension funds. He was the chief architect and strategist on most litigation and appellate matters. Keith currently serves as a Deputy General Counsel for the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association (“IPPFA”).

Keith has extensive experience representing Illinois police and fire pension funds. Mr. Karlson concentrates his practice in the area of first responder labor law, constitutional and civil rights of public employees, and public-sector pension law. He represents police, fire, and corrections unions in Illinois and Indiana. He has been recognized for his representation of firefighters and police officers in disciplinary matters and the civil rights issues arising from them. Mr. Karlson also represents police officers when sued by citizens claiming a violation of civil rights.

In both Illinois and Indiana, Mr. Karlson has had success representing firefighters, police officers, their pension funds, and their unions in the courtroom, on appeal, at the bargaining table, and before administrative tribunals. On behalf of pension funds, Keith has argued matters of first impression before the Supreme Court of Illinois and Illinois’ Courts of Appeal. In Indiana, he represented the first firefighter to ever receive a Class 1 line-of-duty psychiatric disability pension. He also has drafted several amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs on behalf of labor unions, pension funds, and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. Recently, on a pro bono basis, Mr. Karlson represented the family of a Kansas firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. In a seminal decision, Mr. Karlson successfully argued for recognition of a privilege protecting communications between a union member and his/her union representative, a privilege previously not recognized in federal court.

Mr. Karlson has taught several seminars regarding administrative, statutory, and civil rights protections afforded public safety officers and frequently lectures about police and fire pension matters. In particular, Mr. Karlson has lectured on multiple subjects for the IPPFA. He also has taught part of the IPPFA Pension Trustee Certification Program. Mr. Karlson has taught college and graduate level classes relating to civil liability for police officers, law for fire supervisors, and collective bargaining in the public sector. He has published several articles concerning the pension and workplace rights of police officers and firefighters.

Mr. Karlson earned his A.A. (Criminal Justice) from Moraine Valley College, his B.A. (Political Science) from Eastern Illinois University, his M.A. (Communications) from Ball State University, and his Juris Doctor from the DePaul University College of Law. At DePaul, he wrote for the DePaul Health Law Journal. As a member of the National Moot Court Honor Society, he won the DePaul intramural moot court tournament.

Mr. Karlson is a member of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys, Illinois State Bar Association, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, and is an honorary member of IAFF Local 4416. Keith serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors of the American Blues Theater in Chicago. He also works as a volunteer coach for the North Central College Speech Team in Naperville. Keith also serves on the Board of Directors of the Hamilton County Professional Firefighters Foundation.

Mr. Karlson is licensed to practice in Illinois and Indiana State Courts, the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Illinois (trial bar member), the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana, and the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Sixth and Seventh Circuits. In 2013, the Force Science Institute certified Mr. Karlson in the application of human factors to police use of force incidents.


Karlson  Garza LLC
12413 S. Harlem Ave
Suite 1SE
Palos Heights, IL 60463