Children's Legal Services of San Diego protects and defends the rights of children and youth in the child welfare system through high-quality and compassionate legal representation.
CLSSD is a non-profit, interdisciplinary organization that consists of four law firms, which are court-appointed to represent both minors and non-minor dependents in Juvenile Dependency Court within and out San Diego County.
Client-centered – We value and actively listen to the voices of our clients and represent their unique, holistic needs.
Zealous – We are courageous leaders in our advocacy for the protection of each child’s right to safety, stability and well-being.
Collaborative – We work as a team through meaningful dialogues and formalized partnerships, internally and externally, to achieve positive outcomes.
Compassionate – We provide culturally competent services and strive to achieve social justice and dignity for the most vulnerable.
Excellence – We exhibit quality legal representation by ensuring our staff are highly trained and practice with dedication and commitment.
Trustworthy – We gain the trust of our clients, partners and peers by consistently exhibiting knowledge and integrity.
COMPASSIONATE AND EXPERIENCED REPRESENTATION
CLSSD attorneys are court appointed to represent the children and youth who are victims of parental abuse or neglect in the San Diego County juvenile dependency courts. CLSSD's interdisciplinary team of attorneys and investigators are committed to providing our vulnerable clients a voice in the decisions made in the courtroom, which affect their daily lives and futures. Through high-quality legal advocacy, CLSSD strives to ensure the clients’ rights to family, safety and stability.
Carolyn Griesemer, JD
Carolyn serves as the Executive Director of Children’s Legal Services of San Diego, Inc. CLSSD’s attorneys are court appointed to represent the children in the juvenile dependency courts and advocate for their clients’ rights, needs, and best interests.
Carolyn’s legal experience includes having served as a judicial clerk in the Eastern District of Missouri Court of Appeals. From this foundation of understanding the necessity of a strong, precise, appellate record, she entered the arena of trial practice. At the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, she was an Assistant Prosecutor in the Domestic Violence Unit and, later, moved to the San Diego City Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Unit.
Carolyn served as a senior associate with Minors Counsel Office of Dependency Legal Group for five years where she represented children in the juvenile dependency system. Arguing for the rights and necessary services for children, she zealously advocated for her young clients. Prior to co-founding CLSSD in 2016, Carolyn ran her own law practice serving caregiver and relative clients in the juvenile system.
Carolyn currently serves on the San Pasqual Academy Advisory Board and is a voting member of the newly formed Child & Family Strengthening Advisory Board, appointed by the County Board of Supervisors.
Chief Operating Officer
Kristin Garrett Montgomery recently joined Children’s Legal Services of San Diego as Chief Operating Officer. Kristin has spent the past 20 years working to improve the health of San Diego’s most vulnerable populations.
Kristin’s career commenced in a dual role with the Hospital Association of San Diego & Imperial Counties (HASD&IC) and Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP). Kristin served in various positions, including Director of Public Advocacy for HASD&IC and as the President & CEO of CHIP. Most recently, Kristin was the Associate Vice President, San Diego Market Leader for Molina Healthcare of California.
Kristin received a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Health Service Administration from San Diego State University, Graduate School of Public Health and her B.S. in Nutritional Science from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. Kristin has been very involved in the community serving on Boards such as the San Diego Organization of Healthcare Leaders, Mental Health America, American Lung Association, and volunteered as a coach for the Fieldstone Non-profit Leadership Network.
Kristin is passionate about prevention, wellness and social justice. She looks forward to applying her non-profit and community health experience to advocating for San Diego’s foster youth.
Director of Legal Services
Karen joined Children’s Legal Services of San Diego in October 2020 as a staff attorney. In August 2018 she became the Supervising Attorney of Firm2. In August 2019 she became the Managing Attorney of Firm 2. Prior to join CLS, Karen served as minor’s counsel with the San Diego County Public Defender’s Minor’s Counsel Office and at Dependency Legal Services of San Diego. Karen has represented minors for over 16 years. She currently serves as the CLS representative for the San Diego CSEC Steering Committee.
Karen considers her work as the trial attorney on the case of In re Kristen B., 163 Cal. App. 4th 1535 (2008) one of her greatest accomplishments. The published case is the leading case on the dual role of minor’s counsel.
Karen considers an important part of her work as minor’s counsel is to ensure the youth have a voice in their lives while involved with the dependency court, that they understand the process and that they feel connected with their attorney.
Karen’s other legal positions include 18 months as a Public Defender in San Diego County’s Public Defender Misdemeanor Unit, working as a Special Education Attorney for Disability Rights Inc. and as an independent contractor for University of San Diego’s Children’s Advocacy Institute working on research hand policy projects to support legislation for what became know as Extended Foster Care.
Karen received her BS in Political Science and BS in Criminal Justice from Norther Arizona University. After a college internship with the American Bar Association’s Juvenile Justice Center, Karen became interested in community engagement to support children and families from entering the juvenile court system. After graduation Karen moved to San Diego. Growing up in Arizona, San Diego was an annual summer vacation spot. Karen planned to give San Diego a year and then move to DC. However, after working with San Diego Youth Services Storefront Shelter for Homeless/ Runaway Youth and then managing an Independent Living Skills program for foster youth, San Diego became home.
While Karen was earning her Master of Social Work from San Diego State University and managing the ILS program, she attended a meeting and learned more about the role of minor’s attorney. She finished her MSW and then began attending USD School of Law part time. While working as a Research and Evaluation Specialist for SDSU’s Academy for Professional Excellence, she conducted research and policy projects to support the work of Southern California’s child welfare agencies.
Karen received several awards and scholarships for her child advocacy work from USD. In 2011 she received the University of San Diego Children’s Advocacy Law Institute’s Alumni Recognition award.
Karen has taught Child Welfare Law and Policy at California Western School of Law for five years. She is a member of Lawyer’s Club. On her off time, she enjoys judging moot court and mock trial competitions, yoga, running and spending time at the beach with her dog Lucille Ball.