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Kaarin Nelson Schaffer
Kaarin Nelson Schaffer

2021 Attorneys of the Year: Kaarin Nelson Schaffer

George Floyd’s family took the unusual step of appointing Kaarin Nelson Schaffer as its trustee in a federal case against Derek Chauvin and the city of Minneapolis.

An employment attorney at Conard Nelson Schaffer PLLC, Nelson Schaffer is more accustomed to representing wrongfully terminated workers than overseeing a contentious and nationally known group of lawyers from around the country. But the Floyd family, in concert with its attorneys, selected Nelson Schaffer based on her background in criminal defense, her civil rights experience, and her confidence and calm demeanor.

Floyd’s family brought the case against Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer convicted of killing George Floyd during a dispute in 2020. In this case, the officer’s employer, the city, became the defendant and Nelson Schaffer, as the family’s representative, the plaintiff.

“I was trying to manage this team, and that’s kind of an unusual role for a trustee,” she says. “I was trying to help everybody get along and for me to do that, I had to build trust with all of these different attorneys and with the Floyd family. They had to trust that what I was saying was in their best interest and that what I was saying was true.”

“What was challenging was putting all these different heads together and coming up with one answer,” she says. “There’s so much value in hearing 15 different opinions from really great lawyers from all over the country. I mean, my gosh, what a gift, right?”

The city settled for $27 million with the Floyd family last year. Nelson Schaffer will not actively seek more trustee work. “It was an honor and a unique career experience, but it is not what I want to do for a career,” she says. “I want to get back to the courtroom as an attorney and advocate for those who have been wrongfully terminated.”

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2021 here.

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