Karen Overstreet

Karen A. Overstreet

Judicial Affiliate


  • Bankruptcy
  • Uniform commercial code
  • Creditors’ rights under state and federal law
  • Fraudulent conveyances and preferences
  • State and federal issues relating to foreclosure and consumer protection
  • Judge Overstreet also served as a mediator in both bankruptcy and district court cases


  • BA, University of Washington, Economics, Cum Laude, 1977
  • JD, University of Oregon School of Law, 1982


Judge Overstreet was appointed a United States Bankruptcy Judge effective January 3, 1994, and sat in the Western District of Washington at Seattle for 21 years until her retirement effective June 30, 2015. She was the first woman bankruptcy judge appointed in the State of Washington and served as the Chief Judge in her district from June 16, 2005 to December 31, 2010. Judge Overstreet's connection with the Bankruptcy Court has spanned almost 40 years, beginning in 1977, when she began working as a file clerk in the Bankruptcy Clerk's office in Seattle, and continuing 17 years later when she returned to the court as a judge after law school and private practice.

In 1995, Judge Overstreet co-founded the non-profit organization now known as CENTS (Consumer Education & Training Services) and acts currently as its Judicial Liaison. CENTS is nationally known for its efforts in providing a variety of resources, including web resources, to the community on matters of money management, consumer credit and personal finance. Specific programs include DebtSlapped (for teens and college students), Senior Money (a financial educational and fraud-prevention program for senior citizens), the Pro Bono Student Loan Program (providing pro se representation to debtors seeking to discharge student loan debt), Money Steps Reentry Project (a financial education program for inmates scheduled for release from prison), and the Financial Navigation Project for Patients with Cancer (a project in partnership with The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to study and address the financial impact of cancer diagnosis and treatment). Judge Overstreet is also a volunteer for CARE (Credit Abuse Resistance Education), a national organization of bankruptcy judges and other professionals working to improve financial education for teens. Judge Overstreet is a frequent speaker in Western Washington high schools for CENTS and CARE, providing information to teens about the wise use of credit.

Since retiring, Judge Overstreet has continued to focus her energy on projects that seek to improve financial education skills for individuals, including youth and adults. She joined the Financial Education Public-Private Partnership, a Washington legislative committee working to implement financial education standards into the K-12 curriculum, and is a member of its Education subcommittee.

King County Washington Women Lawyers honored Judge Overstreet in 1999 with its Judge of the Year award. In 2012, Judge Overstreet was awarded the Difference Maker Award for Community Service by the American Bar Association GP Solo Division; the award honors an attorney who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the local community through community service. In 2013, Judge Overstreet was awarded the Vanguard Award by the King County Chapter of Washington Women Lawyers; the award honors a judge who has been at the forefront of a movement or issue. In 2015, Judge Overstreet was awarded the Sidney C. Volinn Award by the Creditor/Debtor Section of the Washington State Bar Association for her distinguished service with the federal judiciary.

Prior to her judicial appointment, Judge Overstreet was a partner at the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle, specializing in bankruptcy and commercial law (1986-1994). Prior to that she was an associate at the Philadelphia firm of Duane Morris & Heckscher (Duane Morris LLP) in its Business Reorganization and Financial Restructuring group (1983-1986). She received her undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Washington in 1977 and her law degree from the University of Oregon in 1982.

Judge Overstreet is a Seattle native and she enjoys everything the Great Pacific Northwest has to offer.


  • Veena Shankaran, Tony Leahy, Jordan Steelquist, Kate Watabayashi, Hannah Linden, Scott Ramsey, Naomi Schwartz, Karma Kreizenbeck, Judy Nelson, Alan Balch, Erin Singleton, Kathleen Gallagher, and Karen Overstreet, Pilot Feasibility Study of an Oncology Financial Navigation Program, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Vol 14, No. 2 (February 2018).
  • Ramsey SD, Bansal A, Fedorenko CR, Blough DK, Overstreet KA, Shankaran V, Newcomb P., Financial Insolvency as a Risk Factor for Early Mortality Among Patients With Cancer, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol. 34 No. 9 (March 2016).
  • Scott Ramsey, David Blough, Anne Kirchhoff, Karma Kreizenbeck, Catherine Fedorenko, Kyle Snell, Polly Newcomb, William Hollingworth and Karen Overstreet, Washington State Cancer Patients Found to be at Greater Risk for Bankruptcy Than People Without a Cancer Diagnosis, 32 Health Affairs 1143 (May 2013).
  • Relyea Chew A, Hollingworth W, Chan, L, Comstock BA, Overstreet JK, Jarvik JG. Personal Bankruptcy After Traumatic Brain or Spinal Cord Injury: The Role of Medical Debt, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (August 2008).
  • Hollingworth W, Relyea Chew A, Comstock BA, Overstreet JK, Jarvik JG. The risk of bankruptcy before and after brain or spinal cord injury: a glimpse of the iceberg's tip
    Med Care. 2007 Aug;45(8):699 701.


Recent Speaking Engagements

  • Keynote speaker, The U.S. Bankruptcy Courts: Their Authority and Role in Turbulent Economic Times, Financial Education Public-Private Partnership (February 2021).
  • Panelist, Student Loans: What's New and What's Coming, King County Bar Association Creditor Debtor Section (December 2020).
  • Presenter, Encouraging Students to Pursue Higher Education and Empowering Them to Minimize Student Loan Debt, DebtSlapped, Washington School Counselor Association annual conference (February 2020).
  • Presenter, Supporting Career Choice with Affordable Education, program for teachers sponsored by the Financial Education Public-Private Partnership (December 2019).
  • Keynote speaker, Financial Navigation for Cancer Patients; A Community Partnership to Address Financial Toxicity, Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Research Outcomes, Value in Cancer Care Summit (May 2019).
  • Keynote speaker, The Importance of Financial Education; Giving Kids the Tools They Need in a Complicated Financial World, Master Financial Educators Conference, Financial Education Public-Private Partnership, Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (August 2016, August 2017, August 2019).
  • Panelist, First Day Orders, and Regulators-Enforcing the Law Post-Petition, National Association Of Attorneys General (NAAG), National Attorney Generals' Training Institute (NAGTRI), States' Association Of Bankruptcy Attorneys (SABA), Bankruptcy From A Government Perspective Seminar, Savannah, GA (November 2017).
  • Presenter, Debt Slapped, Gear Up West Regional Conference for College Access Practitioners, Portland, OR (October 2017)
  • Panelist, Post-Petition Bankruptcy Financing: Views from the Bench, Bar and Beyond, Turnaround Management Association (May 2016).
  • Speaker, Bankruptcy in the United States, Committee on Civil Affairs, Delegation from the Swedish Parliament (February 2016).
  • Panelist, Judges Panel, Northwest Bankruptcy Institute, Washington and Oregon State Bar (May 2015).
  • Speaker, Nuts and Bolts of Representing Chapter 11 Debtors, Bankruptcy Court Western District of Washington and Federal Bar Association Bankruptcy Committee (June 2014).
  • Panelist, Bankruptcy Mediation, Northwest Bankruptcy Institute, Washington and Oregon State Bar (April 2014).
  • Panelist, How Judges and Lawyers View the Federal Courts, Western Political Science Association (April 2014).
  • Panelist, Pensions and Retirement Benefits in Chapter 9 and 11; Advanced Bankruptcy: Navigating Complex Bankruptcy Cases, Washington State Bar Association (January 2014).