Karen L. Johnston

Phone: (303) 390-0008 | Fax: (303) 390-0177 | Email: kjohnston@jacksonkelly.com
1099 18th Street, Suite 2150, Denver, CO 80202

Karen L. Johnston is a Member of the Firm, resident in the Denver, Colorado, office. She also serves on the Firm's Executive Committee. Ms. Johnston focuses her practice on occupational safety and health and related civil, criminal and administrative litigation. She counsels and represents mining industry (including metal, nonmetal, and coal mine operators and contractors), construction, energy, and general industry clients in all aspects of their regulatory safety and health matters and in crisis management.

Ms. Johnston has a full range of litigation experience, from pretrial discovery through appeal. She defends clients in regulatory matters before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC) in issues arising under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act, respectively. She also represents clients before various state Occupational Safety and Health agencies. In addition, Ms. Johnston is well-versed in issues arising under the Safe Explosives Act, including licensing and permitting.

Select representative experience:

  • Represented underground and surface operators and contractors in litigation of multi-citation/order enforcement actions under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act in all regions of the United States
  • Represented various employers in OSHA and MSHA fatality and accident investigations
  • Represented operators regarding jurisdiction disputes between OSHA and MSHA
  • Represented operators in Section 105(c) discrimination investigations, temporary reinstatements proceedings and hearings
  • Represented management officials and agents during Section 110(c) investigations
  • Represented operators in Part 50 immediate notification cases following an accident
  • Represented operators in issues arising under the Safe Explosive Act
  • Represented multiple employers in cases involving all types of citations including willful and repeat allegations

Ms. Johnston has authored several published materials, including articles on safety and health topics, and she regularly presents on occupational safety and health topics to various national and state industry and trade association groups.  She also conducts seminars and training programs on safety and health enforcement and discrimination topics under various state and federal acts. Ms. Johnston is a member of the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations, as well as numerous state and national mining and health and safety organizations, including the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, the Industrial Minerals Association and the Colorado Mining Association.

Ms. Johnston is a graduate of the University of Denver where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in 1986.  She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1989. She is licensed to practice law in Colorado and is admitted to practice before the United States District Court in Colorado and the United States Courts of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the Third and Tenth Circuits. 

Legal Experience
1997 - PresentJackson Kelly PLLC
1994 - 1997Irizarry & McCall, P.C.
1991 - 1994 Parcel, Mauro, Hultin & Spaanstra, P.C.
1989 - 1990Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld
1989J.D.University of Pennsylvania Law School
1986B.A.University of Denver (CO) (Public Affairs & Mass Communications)
Bar Admissions
1989Pennsylvania (retired)
Court Admissions
2007 U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
2005U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
1994U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
1991U.S. District Court, Colorado

Professional Involvement:
  • Colorado Bar Association
  • Denver Bar Association
  • National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association Council of Counsels 
  • Women in Energy
  • Women in Mining
  • American Society of Safety Engineers

  • University of Denver Alumni Organization
  • Denver Botanic Gardens
  • Greater Park Hill Neighborhood Association
  • Historic Park Hill

Teaching and Lecturing:
  • "Effective Management of Contractors," 2017 South Central Joint Mine Health & Safety Conference, April 11, 2017
  • "Adequate Today, Inadequate Tomorrow:  The Moving Target of Workplace Exam Compliance," 2017 Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association Winter Workshop, Feb. 1, 2017
  • "Crisis Management:  Prepare for the Worst in Order to be Your Best," 2016 NSSGA AGG1 Aggregates Academy & Expo, March 24, 2016
  • "Managing the Emergency:  You've Called 911, Now What?," National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association Webinar, Oct. 29, 2015
  • "Discipline of Miners After MSHA Investigations Under § 103(g) and After Accidents," 2014 PCMIA/PCA Safety and Health Law Seminar, June 2014
  • "The Mine Operator's Rules to Live By," Iowa Limestone Producers Association, Feb. 2014
  • "'New' MSHA Post Election," MSHA Spring Thaw, Mesa, Arizona, May 2010
  • "Paradigm Shift: Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) Compliance, Enforcement, Penalties, and Evidence Collection," Energy and Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute, Sept. 2008
  • "Collateral Damage: How the Focus on MSHA is Impacting Your Operations," Arizona Rock Products Association, June 2008
  • "Evidence Collection in Preparation of A Defense," National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association Legal Symposium, March 2008
  • "Post MINER Act - A Workshop for Survival," Northwest Mining Association, Dec. 2007
  • "Recent Developments in MSHA Law, Enforcement Strategy, and New Penalty Structure," National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association Environmental Safety & Health Forum Expo, Washington, D.C., Sept. 2007
  • "MSHA Regulatory and Legislative Update," American Society of Safety Engineers, Colorado Chapter, Jan. 2007
  • "MSHA Regulatory and Legislative Update," Washington & Oregon Aggregates & Concrete Association’s Fall & Winter Workshop, Nov. 2006
  • "Mine Act Case Law Update," Arizona Rock Products Association, Oct. 2005
  • "To Produce Or Not To Produce: How To Answer That Question When MSHA Wants Your Documents," ISMSP 2005 Critical Issues & T3 Conference, May 2005
  • "Ethical Concerns when Communicating with Government Agencies," Lorman Educational Services, Oct. 2004
  • "The Mine Act: Is It Time for Change?," National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association Annual Convention, Jan. 2004
  • "How to Fight an MSHA Citation," Nebraska Mine Safety and Health Conference 2004, Jan. 2004
  • "OSHA Regulatory and Case Update," OSHA Today Annual Issue Forum, Dec. 2003
  • "OSHA Inspections: How to Minimize Personal Liability By Managing the Process," Home Builders Association of Metro Denver, April 2003
  • "Legal Responsibilities and Liabilities at Multi-Employer Worksites," The 30th Annual North Dakota Safety and Health Conference, Feb. 2003
  • "Handling a Case Under Alternative Case Resolution Initiative (ACRI)," Colorado Ready Mix Concrete Association/Colorado Rock Products Association and Colorado Mining Association, Oct. 2002; Arizona Rock Products Association, March 2003
  • "Part 46 One Year Later: Pass or Fail?," National Stone, Sand & Gravel Environmental Safety & Health Forum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sept. 2001
  • "Regulatory Agenda for a New Administration," National Aggregates Association/National Stone Association 2001 Annual Convention, Feb. 2001
  • "Where OSHA is Headed in the Twenty-First Century," The 28th Annual North Dakota Safety and Health Conference, Feb. 2001
  • Guest lecturer, University of Denver Law School

Writings and Publications:
  • "Mine Safety and Health in the U.S.:  Expansion of MSHA Authority to Control Mining Operations Through Inspection and Investigation," co-authored with C.K. Lane and Marco M. Rajkovich, Jr., published in the 60th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2014)
  • "The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006:  Improvement or Framework for Controversy," co-authored with Laura E. Beverage, published in the 53rd Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2007)
  • "A Primer on Federal and State Occupational Safety and Health Laws and Regulations Applicable to Uranium Mining and Milling," co-authored with Laura E. Beverage, published in the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Uranium Exploration and Development Mineral Law Series, Volume 2006, Number 2
  • "Mine Safety and Health Law," co-authored with Laura E. Beverage, published in Part I of the Industrial Minerals and Rocks 7th Edition (2006)
  • "Communication with a Government Agency Represented by Counsel: Where Does the Ethical Boundary Fall?," co-authored with Laura E. Beverage, 25 Energy & Min. L. Inst. ch. 3 (2005)
  • "The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977:  Is it Suffering From a Mid-Life Crisis?," Denver Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 3, 2001
  • "Part 46 One Year Later:  Pass or Fail?," co-authored with Julia Shreve, Stone, Sand & Gravel Review, Nov. 2001
  • "Internal Investigations and Preventive Safety Audits:  You Are What You Document," co-authored with Laura E. Beverage, Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (2000)
  • "How to Live in Legal Harmony with Independent Contractors," Aggregates Manager, Dec. 1999 and Jan. 2000

Awards and Honors:
  • Graduated cum laude from the University of Denver, 1986
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