Karen D. McDonald was elected Oakland County Prosecutor on November 3, 2020, and took office on January 1st, 2021. Karen is committed to protecting victims of crime, improving outcomes for juveniles and families, and increasing fairness and racial equity across the criminal justice system.
Karen’s early initiatives have included reviewing the files of every pending juvenile lifer case in Oakland County, establishing a Trafficking Unit, a Hate Crimes Unit, and a Conviction Integrity Unit. She has formed the first-ever Oakland County Prosecutor’s Racial Justice Advisory Council, as well as an internal Equity Team. Most critically, she has extended prosecutorial discretion to assistant prosecutors. Every case is unique, and discretion allows assistant prosecutors to make the right decision based on all of the circumstances.
Prior to her election as Oakland County Prosecutor, Karen was a judge on the Oakland County Circuit Court. She was elected to the bench in 2012, and re-elected in 2018. As a judge, Karen specialized in family matters - including divorce and custody, child abuse and neglect, and adoption. She is especially proud to have presided over the first adoption by an LGBTQ+ couple in the history of the State of Michigan.
She gave up her seat as a judge in April 2019 to run for prosecutor because she believed she could have a greater impact on our community.
Karen began her career as a high school English teacher in Midland, Michigan – an experience that sparked her lifelong commitment to kids. After attending law school, Karen served as an assistant prosecuting attorney at the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office, where she prosecuted child sexual assault cases. She then became a private practice attorney and partner at a prominent Oakland County-based law firm, where she specialized in civil and family law.
Throughout her legal career, Prosecutor McDonald has honed significant expertise in matters relating to children and families. She has been called upon to share her passion and expertise on a number of boards, tasks forces, and commissions, including the Oakland County Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force and the Foster Care Review Board Program Advisory Committee. She is the recipient of the Oakland County Domestic Violence Prevention Award and the Joan E. Young Champion of Children Award. In July 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Prosecutor McDonald to serve on the State of Michigan’s Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform, chaired by the Lieutenant Governor.
Karen was raised in Portland, Michigan, alongside her two sisters. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and political science at Alma College and graduated cum laude from Wayne State University School of Law. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and five children.