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Hon. Karen A. Henenberg

Hon. Karen A. Henenberg

Educator at all levels, from law students to fellow judges; mentor of young women seeking judicial careers

Arlington General District Court
1425 North Courthouse Road, Suite 12200
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 228-4602


BA, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College
JD, University of Richmond

Who was your most important mentor and how did that mentor impact your career?

I have had three: Judge Leonie Brinkema, who taught by example, both as a colleague teaching law at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy, and as a judge, encouraging me to seek a judgeship and emphasizing the importance of encouraging others to do so; Joanne Valdes, who taught me the skills to be an effective teacher and listener with any group, skills which have served me well as a jurist and teacher; and my husband, David Lasso, my “legal partner” in all my endeavors, who encouraged my interest in teaching and judging and who is my most trusted advisor.

What do you consider your biggest personal accomplishment and why?

My greatest personal accomplishments are my children, Kenneth, who will receive his Masters Degree in Public Policy this year and Benjamin, who is a junior in college. They are academically accomplished, kind, honest, and hard-working young adults who are pursuing their passions and their dreams: Kenneth, who has a band, to pursue a career in performing and producing music, and Benjamin, who is on his college’s golf team, to pursue a career playing on the PGA Tour. My children have always supported me and my career, and they never thought it was a big deal for their mother to be an attorney or a judge.

What is the best bit of advice you ever received?

The best two bits of advice I ever received was that you could never be too prepared for trial and that you never had to eat words that you didn’t say.

How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?

My family has always come first, before professional commitments. It often takes careful planning, a lot of flexibility, some creativity, and a sense of humor to balance both. I will be working on my lesson plans for a class when my son is practicing on the driving range before a tournament, or working on a presentation in the car while traveling to my son’s band gig.

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what field would you have entered?

I would have become a full-time professor. I was accepted to graduate school in political science. I chose law, but pursued my passion for teaching during my entire legal career.

What is your favorite book or movie and why?

One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump. It is so nostalgic, poignant and funny all at the same time. I love the line, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” As I often say, that describes a day in the General District Court, as well as life in general.

What are two facts about you that most people, including your closest friends, may not know?

I love horses; I love everything about horses: riding, jumping, grooming, and cleaning a stall – everything. I ride weekly, and when I enter the barn, I love the smells of hay, leather, and horses.
I love music—especially rock, heavy metal, industrial, alternative music. I truly love the music that my children like and that my son’s band, Rites of Ash, plays. We go to shows together to hear the music we love.