Presiding Justice Karen K. Peters received her BS from George Washington University (cum laude) and her JD from New York University (cum laude, Order of the Coif). From 1972 to 1979, she was engaged in private practice, served as an Assistant District Attorney in Dutchess County and worked as an assistant professor at the State University at New Paltz, where she taught courses on criminal law, gender discrimination and the law, and civil rights and civil liberties. In 1979, Justice Peters was selected as the first counsel for the newly created New York State Division of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and served in that capacity under Governors Hugh Carey and Mario M. Cuomo. In 1983, she became the director of the State Assembly Government Operations Committee.
Justice Peters' judicial career began in 1983 when she was elected to serve as an Ulster County Family Court Judge. She remained on the Family Court bench until 1992, when she was elected as the first woman Supreme Court Justice in the Third Department. Subsequently, on February 3, 1994, Justice Peters was appointed to the Appellate Division, Third Department by Governor Mario M. Cuomo and was appointed Presiding Justice of that Court by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on April 5, 2012. She was the first woman to have been appointed as the Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, Third Department.
Justice Peters currently serves on the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children, the New York State Task Force for Wrongful Convictions and the New York State Bar Association Committee on the New York State Constitution. She has also served on the Commission on Judicial Conduct from 2000 to 2012. Justice Peters is the Chair of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Judicial Wellness and has also served on the New York State Bar Association Special Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the New York State Bar Association Special Committee on Procedures for Judicial Discipline, and the President's Committee on Access to Justice. She is also a member of the American Bar Association, the Ulster County Bar Association, the Albany County Bar Association, both the Mid-Hudson and Capital District Women's Bar Associations and the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York.
Justice Peters has received numerous awards including, among many others, the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' Hon. William J. Brennan Award for Outstanding Jurist, the Albany County Bar Association's President's Award, New York State Bar Association's Judicial Section Inaugural Award for Advancement of Judicial Diversity, the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society's Public Service Leadership Award , the Capital District Women's Bar Association Judge Kaye Distinguished Membership Attorney Award, and Albany Law School's Kate Stoneman Award.
An avid supporter of the arts, Justice Peters serves on the Board of Directors of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. She is also a member of the Mohonk Preserve and the NAACP.