0
Votes

Getting To Know... Karen Bune

A local legal specialist reflects on her career.

Karen Bune isn’t a lawyer, but she’s worked in courtrooms her entire life.

The lifelong Arlingtonian is a legal specialist that focuses on assisting the victims of sexual assault, stalking, battery and other crimes through the legal process.

She currently works with domestic violence victims for the State’s Attorney’s Office in Prince George’s County, Md. Recently Bune was recognized as a distinguished alumnus of American University, where she received her degree in Administration of Justice.

In an interview with the Arlington Connection, Bune talked about her job and about some of the high-profile cases she’s been involved with.

Arlington Connection: You graduated from American University in 1978. Did you find it difficult to get into the field of law at the time? What were some of the obstacles that you faced?

Karen Bune: When I received my Master’s degree in 1978, jobs in criminal justice, at the time, were scarce but I was determined to work in my field. A number of the jobs that were available required specialized experience in the field that, initially out of school, I did not have. Though I graduated with distinction and was bilingual, I knew it would not be easy to begin in my career field. However, my determination was strong and I made up my mind I would not settle for anything less than a job in the criminal justice field. I pursued every opportunity that I became aware of, and the biggest obstacle was recognizing that the job search would take time and require patience during a period when the employment market was glutted with job seekers. Facing the challenge, I started out in a position in my field that was part-time with no benefits, but it was the beginning of a career in my field.

AC: What was the most difficult case you've been involved with? What was the most rewarding?

KB: The most difficult case I was involved with concerned a woman who had been stalked for several years by a male acquaintance with whom she initially had business dealings. She endured the stalking behavior for several years. She would only leave her house to go to work and to the store. She never reported the incidents to law enforcement, and she lived her life like a hermit. When she finally decided to file a report, after a period of years, I had contact with her. Initially, she told me she was sorry she had reported it and wanted "It all to go away." She stated she did not want to proceed with prosecution. I had to work with her in a sensitive but determined way to enable her to understand the seriousness of this charge, what it could lead to, and the potential future harm that could arise if the behavior continued. After spending a lot of time talking with the victim, she finally decided that what I was saying made sense, and she decided to cooperate. I worked with her for a year and, during that time, she was on an emotional roller coaster. Ultimately, however, the case did go forward, the stalker was convicted, and the victim was able to move on with her life. She began to get out of the house, pursue enjoyable activities, and start a "new" life. Several years later, she contacted me to tell me she had met the man of her dreams and was engaged. She sent me flowers and a heartwarming note thanking me for standing behind her, providing encouragement, and the necessary support that was vital to give her the emotional strength to move forward with her case in the criminal justice system. She told me I had enabled her to begin a new life. Actually, this was one of the most rewarding cases, as well, because I was able to assist this woman who was a teacher and who was living in constant fear and a state of continuous helplessness. It was rewarding to see her change, in positive ways, and to be able to get her life back as a result her participation in the criminal justice system. My involvement in that process was very rewarding.

AC: You represented the victim in the infamous Marv Albert [sexual assault] case many years ago. What was that like? Did you find the intense media scrutiny difficult to handle?

KB: Handling the Marv Albert case was both interesting and a challenge. It was a high profile case that captivated the entire nation, and the media attention was intense. My role was to work with the victim; I provided her support, victim assistance, prepared her for the trial process, and accompanied her to court on a daily basis throughout the trial. There was an overwhelming amount of media outside the courthouse. Reporters and camera personnel constantly attempted to gain access to both of us for interviews. However, there was a gag order in effect until the trial was over. Though this was a high profile case, I treated this victim with the same professionalism and respect that I would any other victim. My goal was to minimize the trauma of the trial process for her and to ensure that she received the victims’ rights and appropriate treatment and services she was entitled to.

AC: What was your first job?

KB: My first job out of graduate school was working as a Case Manager in the Arlington Alcohol Safety Action Program. I worked with individuals arrested and convicted of DWI. I conducted evaluations and made referrals and treatment recommendations as well as sentencing recommendations to the court. I served in a probationary capacity, monitored the clients’ progress and participation, and testified in court on reported violations.

AC: What are your concerns for the community? Is there anything in Arlington that you think should be changed?

KB: My concern for the community is that it is becoming overdeveloped. It seems as though daily there is a new building or high-rise going up and Arlington is beginning to be a mini-metropolis surrounded by concrete edifices. It is starting to lose that unique, intimate, community aspect that it has always had in the past.

I am also concerned about the unrelenting rise in property taxes that are difficult for many long-time and elderly residents to maintain and which are pushing younger people away from the ownership affordability of the housing market in Arlington County.

AC: What is your favorite restaurant in Arlington?

KB: My favorite restaurant in Arlington is Essy’s Carriage House on Lee Highway. The food is delicious. Essy, the owner, and his wife who works with him, are always hospitable, accommodating, and make me feel welcome. The ambiance is pleasant and comfortable. It is a great place to go for a good meal in a relaxed atmosphere.

AC: What are your concerns for the community? Is there anything in Arlington that you think should be changed?

KB: My concern for the community is that it is becoming overdeveloped. It seems as though daily there is a new building or high-rise going up and Arlington is beginning to be a mini-metropolis surrounded by concrete edifices. It is starting to lose that unique, intimate, community aspect that it has always had in the past.

I am also concerned about the unrelenting rise in property taxes that are difficult for many long-time and elderly residents to maintain and which are pushing younger people away from the ownership affordability of the housing market in Arlington County.

AC: What’s your favorite movie?

KB: My recent favorite movie is "Little Miss Sunshine" because it represents a synthesis of life combined with both seriousness and humor. It is the kind of movie that causes serious reflection about some aspects of life and family relationships yet has a number of humorous situations and aspects that evoke genuine belly laughs. It is, overall, a heartwarming movie and one to be remembered.

AC: When you were younger what did you want to be when you grew up?

KB: When I was younger, from the time I was in elementary school and through high school, I always wanted to be a teacher. That is all I talked about. Now, many years later, I am an Adjunct Professor at three local universities.

AC: If you could take a road trip anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

KB: I would take a trip to Scandinavia and, in particular, Denmark. I am partly of Danish heritage and would like to visit Silkeborg, on the Jutland Peninsula, where my father was born.