People

Melissa Nelson, Senior Counsel

Melissa Nelson is Senior Counsel at the Attorney General’s Office Regional Services Division, Bellingham. She came to the Attorney General’s Office in 1990 and has spent her career representing DSHS and higher education clients, including Whatcom Community College, Skagit Valley College, and Bellingham Technical College. Melissa also practiced as an attorney in the Torts Division, which included defending higher education institutions against tort suits. Melissa served as the Regional Services Division Appellate Coordinator for eight years and has argued cases in the Washington State Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Additionally, Melissa has been selected as a Judge or Commissioner Pro Tempore by three different courts. Melissa is a 1987 graduate of the Santa Clara University School of Law—Magna Cum Laude. Prior to joining the AGO, Melissa was in private practice for two years in Bellingham and served for one year as a law clerk on the Washington State Court of Appeals.

Kerena Higgins, Senior Counsel, Education Team Leader

Higgins is a managing attorney within the Office of the Washington State Attorney General (AGO). She currently serves as Team Leader to the Bellingham attorneys handling Education, Labor and Industries, and Adult Protective Services work. Higgins has been an Assistant Attorney General in the AGO since 2001, beginning in the Tacoma Division. She has handled a wide variety of litigation and client advice matters over the years, including dependency and termination of parental rights cases, Labor and Industries litigation, and day care and foster care licensing-related litigation. In addition to her work with Western (since 2013), Kerena has been the AAG for Bellingham Technical College, Skagit Valley College, Whatcom Community College, and Educational Service District 189. She has also previously served as counsel to Peninsula College. Prior to coming to the AGO, Kerena worked for the Thurston County Prosecutor. She also worked for Washington State University in their grant and contract office. Prior to moving to Washington State, Kerena worked as a legislative aide for the US Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts and the Humanities.

Lisa LaGuardia, Assistant Attorney General (AAG), Managing Attorney Juvenile Team

Lisa LaGuardia began working at the Washington State Attorney General Office (AGO) in 2008. Since 2015, LaGuardia manages a team of juvenile litigation attorneys and paralegals. In addition to her managerial duties, Lisa works closely alongside a team of AAGs representing Western Washington University. Throughout her time at the AGO, Lisa has handled a wide variety of litigation, including matters involving child abuse and neglect, daycare and foster care licensing, adult family home licensing, protection orders and adult protective services matters, administrative hearings involving drivers’ license challenges and child abuse and neglect, and appellate advocacy. Prior to her time at the AGO, Lisa worked as an attorney at the Whatcom County Public Defender office, the Stark County (Ohio) Public Defender Office, the Stark County Department of Children and Family Services and briefly operated her own family law practice.

A graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, Lisa enjoys visiting family in the Midwest, California and Florida and enjoys spending time with her two daughters, husband and cats.