Kerena Higgins, Assistant Attorney General, Education Team Leader

Higgins is a managing attorney within the Office of the Washington State Attorney General. She currently serves as Team Leader to the attorneys handling Education and Labor and Industries work in the Bellingham office and at Western. Higgins has been an Assistant Attorney General in the Attorney General’s office since 2001, beginning in the agency’s Tacoma Division and transferring to the Bellingham office in 2002. 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 licensing-related litigation. Kerena currently advises all public education institutional clients. In addition to her work with Western, Kerena represents Bellingham Technical College (since 2007), Skagit Valley College, and Educational Service District 189. She has also previously served as counsel to Peninsula College. Prior to coming to the Attorney General’s office, 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.

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Seattle University School of Law, Kerena enjoys spending time with her family, skiing, gardening, and playing with their many animals.

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.