Advocating for public employees and their unions.


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 public safety labor unions, and 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, 7 th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, 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, the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, and the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.

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. On a pro bono basis, Mr. Karlson (along with local counsel) succeeded in achieving death benefits for the family of a Kansas firefighter who was killed in the line of duty and disability benefits for a Florida sheriff’s deputy who was catastrophically injured in an on-duty gun battle.


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. Later he was also certified by the Force Science Institute regarding the use of bodycameras and other police related recordings.

Keith Karlson has been listed as a Super Lawyer in the areas employment and labor law (a distinction less than 5% of Illinois attorneys receive).


Raymond G. Garza is a founding partner of Karlson Garza LLC. Mr. Garza has extensive litigation experience in both the public and private sector since becoming an attorney in 1997.

In 2002, he joined the Illinois Attorney General’s Office where he handled complex wrongful death and medical malpractice cases on behalf of state agencies. In 2005, Mr. Garza was made supervisor of the Attorney General Office’s Labor Unit. He managed a team of attorneys and paralegals in the civil prosecution of over 2,000 wage claims on behalf of the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL). Mr. Garza has advised IDOL’s General Counsel and Director on a variety of legal issues crucial to IDOL’s enforcement of the state’s wage and hour laws. Mr. Garza has also represented state agencies in employee disciplinary hearings before the Illinois State Police Merit Board, the Illinois Civil Service Commission, and the Illinois Secretary of State Merit Commission. He also defended the appeal of those administrative decisions. Mr. Garza has spoken to a number of foreign consulates and labor organizations regarding labor issues.

In 2010, Mr. Garza became one of a select group of attorneys to represent the Metropolitan Alliance of Police (“MAP”) and its members, a police union based in the state of Illinois. In his capacity as a MAP attorney, Mr. Garza has represented the interest of police officers in variety of issues and causes including: contract negotiations, discipline matters, and contract enforcement.  

In addition, Mr. Garza is an experienced advocate for police officers and firefighters in a variety of labor and employment matters. He also provides general legal services (real estate, probate, etc.) to first responders and veterans. Mr. Garza is also a principal in Hawkeye Security, Inc. a company which trains businesses and organizations in responding to active shooter events.

Ray received a B.A. in psychology from St. Xavier University and his juris doctor from Northern Illinois University, College of Law.

Mr. Garza is a veteran of the United States Army and is currently a member of the New Lenox American Legion Post 1977, where he serves as Post Judge Advocate. Mr. Garza remains active in military veteran causes to including Wounded Warriors In Action and Paws for Patriots, often donating time and money to these and other organizations.  Mr. Garza has served on the board of the South Suburban Habitat For Humanity.  Mr. Garza  also served as the President of the New Lenox Toastmasters. Currently, he serves as a board member for the Lincoln-Way High School District 210 Foundation.



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