Joseph Karnes

Partner Attorney


Joseph Karnes has over 25 years of experience in land use planning, land use and real estate law and has practiced in Santa Fe with Karl Sommer since 2006.

He brings a solution-based approach to complex land use issues, concentrating on early identification of viable outcomes and an efficient plan of action to achieve them. Joseph’s experience as a United States Olympic Trials marathon runner has taught him that focus must be applied over the long haul, identifying, navigating and surpassing obstacles as they arise.

After receiving a degree in Natural Resources Planning from Humboldt State University and serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, Joseph worked for 5 years as a land use planner in Monterey California, providing services to over 20 local government jurisdictions. This experience led him to obtain his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

"Navigating the entitlement process requires awareness of the law, the facts, the people involved and a custom strategy to focus the issues and efficiently achieve the client’s objectives. Keeping the process on track is a constant and rewarding challenge."

Joseph’s 10 years of practice in northern California included many high profile clients and cases including litigating two appeals to obtain approval of Clint Eastwood’s Tehama Golf Club, and facilitating development of the 3,100 home mixed-use Lincoln Crossing Master Plan in Lincoln, California and the 600 megawatt Los Esteros Critical Energy Facility in San Jose, California.

Since moving to Santa Fe in 2006, Joseph’s practice has focused on helping individual property owners and businesses address their real property-related objectives and issues, including land use entitlements, transactions and where necessary or unavoidable, litigation. Joseph and Karl facilitate dismissal of several existing lawsuits and approval of annexation, General Plan and zoning for the 550-acre Las Soleras mixed use project in Santa Fe and achieved approval of the West Alameda Lofts Rezoning, consisting of 32 homes including 8 affordable homes despite substantial neighborhood opposition.

Joseph co-founded 501(c)(3) organization Global Running Culture, whose mission is to better the lives of youth through the powers of sport and education in 3 communities where running is a vital part of the culture: northern New Mexico, the village of Matungen, Kenya and Copper Canyon, Mexico.

In 2011, Global Running Culture established the Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon as a destination event designed to attract visitors to Santa Fe and to raise funds for the organization. In 2015, the Race attracted over 1,600 participants from 41 states and 6 countries and generated almost $900,000 in direct and indirect spending in the local area, providing a late summer boosts for local tourism.

Joseph lives in Santa Fe with his wife Carolyn and their daughter.