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Hon. Kevin R. Culhane (Ret.)

Hon. Kevin R. Culhane (Ret.)

General Biography
Practice Areas
Class Action and Mass Tort
Employment Law
Estate Probate Trusts
Family Law
Governmental Public Agency
Health Care
Personal Injury/Torts
Professional Liability
Real Estate & Real Property
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Hon Kevin R. Culhane (Ret.) has joined JAMS as a neutral following a distinguished legal career spanning over four decades. Judge Culhane served for 13 years as a judge of the Sacramento Superior Court, including assignments in civil trials, civil law and motion, family law and probate. During his tenure, he presided over more than 150 jury trials and conducted hundreds of settlement conferences leading to the resolution of some of the most high-profile civil cases. Judge Culhane was recognized as Judge of the Year in 2012 by the Sacramento Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, Judge of the Year in 2013 by the Capitol City Trial Lawyers’ Association and Judge of the Year in 2017 by the Sacramento County Bar Association.

Prior to joining the bench, Judge Culhane handled complex civil litigation for 32 years. During this time, he handled and tried cases involving a broad range of disciplines, including products liability, personal injury, government tort liability, real property, insurance and professional liability.

Judge Culhane’s commitment to community service and the rule of law during were recognized during his years as a lawyer. He served as a member of the California State Bar’s Board of Governors, where he had primary responsibility for the overhaul of the state’s attorney discipline system and the establishment of the State Bar Court. He then served two terms as a member of the Judicial Council. In 1993, he was recognized by the Judicial Council for his distinguished service and his work to address gender bias in the courts.

Throughout Judge Culhane’s time as a practitioner and judge, he also served as a professor of law at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, where he taught Torts, Advanced Torts, Evidence, Insurance Law and Professional Responsibility to over 7,000 law students. His multi-volume treatise, Model Interrogatories, covers the elements of claims and defenses, as well as deposition and motion practice in over 35 substantive disciplines. 

Judge Culhane has long been known for his commitment to alternative dispute resolution and his skill in crafting resolutions in cases involving intractable conflicts and complex legal issues. As a lawyer, he was selected by the Third District Court of Appeal to serve in its appellate mediation program. He completed mediation training at the top-ranked Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. As a presiding judge, he had primary responsibility for conceptualizing, designing and implementing Sacramento’s unique Civil Settlement Conference Center, while also taking steps to ensure that no civil case was continued due to lack of a courtroom. His ability to identify the salient legal issues and discern and address each party’s interests in court-supervised settlement conferences earned him a reputation as a collaborative, innovative and tenacious settlement judge.

Representative Matters

  • Class Action and Mass Tort
      • As complex civil judge, presided over hundreds of case management conferences and issued substantive rulings in complex civil matters, including class actions, construction defect and California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims
      • As complex civil judge, issued rulings dealing with class certification, preliminary and final approval of class action settlements, bifurcation and trial of construction defect disputes with associated cross-claims against additional insurers, and manageability issues in PAGA actions
      • Conducted settlement conferences and achieved settlements in construction defect litigation
      • Conducted settlement conferences and achieved settlements in coordinated fire loss cases
  • Discovery and Civil Procedure
      • Presided over and issued rulings in hundreds if not thousands of discovery disputes, including motions to compel answers and further answers to interrogatories; adjudication of objections on motions to compel; motions to compel the production of documents; adjudication of every type of privilege claim, including claims of burden, proprietary information and privacy; motions to deem matters admitted; motions for inspection of premises; motions for independent medical examinations; and motions for the imposition of sanctions
      • Presided over and issued rulings in hundreds of substantive and/or pleadings challenges, including demurrers, motions to strike, motions for judgment on the pleadings, motions for summary judgment, anti-SLAPP motions, motions to compel arbitration and disqualification motions
  • Elder Care and Abuse
      • Presided over and issued rulings on discovery issues arising in multiple elder abuse cases under California’s elder abuse statute (Welfare and Institutions Code, section 15600 et seq.) and involving claims of physical abuse, neglect and/or financial abuse
      • Conducted settlement conferences and settled claims against care facilities alleging elder abuse and/or neglect following injuries to or death of elder
      • Conducted settlement conferences and settled elder abuse claim for injuries sustained by elder secondary to multiple falls while in the custodial care of facility
      • As probate judge, conducted settlement conferences and settled several cases alleging misappropriation of elder’s property as a result of financial elder abuse
      • Presided over trial and adjudicated claims between siblings alleging property transfers resulted from financial elder abuse
  • Employment Law
      • Presided over jury trial of claim against California Department of Justice alleging failure to promote secondary to racial animus
      • Presided over jury trial of racial discrimination claim against national retailer
      • Presided over court trial of religious discrimination/failure to accommodate claim against California state agency
      • Presided over jury trial of case alleging disability discrimination against national grocery retailer
      • Presided over jury trial of case alleging disability discrimination against national trucking company
      • As law and motion judge, issued tentative and final rulings on discovery and other issues arising in discrimination litigation, including class action litigation and attorneys’ fees motions
  • Estate Probate Trusts
      • Presided over and adjudicated thousands of probate matters, including administration of decedents estates, trust administration and interpretation, fiduciary accounting and property distribution, taxation and property sales, including resolution of multi-jurisdictional probate, trust and estate matters
      • Presided over numerous matters involving the initiation, administration and termination of probate conservatorships, including conservatorship administration, bonding and property issues
      • Presided over numerous matters involving the initiation, administration and termination of probate guardianships
      • Handled numerous probate settlement conferences in cases ranging from small estate property disputes to the administration of multi-million-dollar estates involving Fortune 500 companies, complex real estate and taxation disputes
      • Presided over and resolved complex discovery matters in trust accounting disputes, including the nature and extent of attorney-client privilege arising from objections and Probate Code 850 petitions filed by trust beneficiaries
  • Family Law
      • Presided over thousands of family law hearings involving marital dissolution, property division, and spousal and child support proceedings
      • Presided over numerous matters involving the design and implementation of collaborative co-parenting plans
      • Presided over numerous matters involving complex property division issues, including issues of property characterization, reimbursement rights, deferred compensation and pension rights, real property division and taxation
      • Presided over the trial of complex and emotionally fraught move-away petitions
      • Presided over the trial of complex parentage petitions, including petitions involving competing presumptions
      • Conducted numerous family law settlement conferences dealing with property division, support and child custody matters to facilitate fair, creative and workable solutions to family law disputes.
      • Conducted special-set settlement conferences and achieved settlements in cases involving high-net-worth litigants and extensive property holdings
      • Author of “Toward Pension Equality: A Reexamination of California's Terminable Interest Doctrine” (1984) 14 Sw.U.L.Rev. 613; this article, which addresses the division of public pension benefits, has been cited in numerous appellate opinions throughout California
  • Governmental Public Agency
      • Presided over the final (post-judgment) phase of the Colorado River quantification cases, including the adjudication of attorneys’ fees requests
      • As law and motion judge, presided over and adjudicated initial challenges to California’s High-Speed Rail project.
      • Presided over and adjudicated claims relating to physician and nursing compensation agreements under procedures to effectuate the Plata prison oversight decision
      • Assigned by the Chief Justice of California to preside over multi-year coordinated proceedings involving bond validations and CEQA challenges by environmental groups and public entities to the Delta Conveyance Project
      • Presided over administrative record preparation, hearings and decision of the Water Supply Contract Amendment litigation; this litigation involves the validation of certain contract amendments by which water has been allocated to 29 water contractors who in turn pay the costs of California’s State Water Project; validation was opposed by numerous municipalities and environmental groups, some of which filed associated litigation under CEQA and other relevant statutes
  • Insurance
      • Presided over sequential jury and court trials in consolidated action alleging insurance bad faith in multiple construction defect cases; this litigation included issues relating to extent of the duty to defend under Buss, the right to independent Cumis counsel, the extent of consent to settlement clauses, extracontractual exposure following alleged failures to settle and the resolution of contribution claims against multiple carriers that issued additional insured endorsements
      • Presided over law and motion proceedings involving “triple trigger” claims for long-term environmental and chemical exposure
      • Conducted settlement conferences leading to settlement of dispute between liability carriers regarding identification of carrier “on the risk” given claim of multiple occurrences versus single occurrence following catastrophic injury loss
      • Presided over litigation of injury claims involving future medical treatment cost(s) and contention(s) that treatment “outside of plan” constituted failure to mitigate by plaintiff
      • Presided over jury trial involving nature and extent of fire insurer’s obligation to pay costs of post-fire premises remediation
      • Presided over scores of cases involving the nature and extent of medical liens in Minors’ Compromise proceedings
  • Personal Injury/Torts
      • Conducted settlement conferences and settled multi-million-dollar claims involving wrongful death of minor due to food allergy, including simultaneous resolution of intricate insurance coverage issues
      • Conducted settlement conferences and resolved coordinated actions involving wrongful death and injury claims against national fire protection company, including resolution of associated insurance contribution issues
      • Presided over jury trial of consolidated injury and wrongful death claims against national app-based rideshare provider
      • Presided over numerous jury trials involving vehicle accidents, including cases involving catastrophic injuries, past and future medical treatment issues under Howell and its progeny, claims of over-treatment and disputed liability claims, as well as multiple causation cases
      • Presided over products liability jury trial involving catastrophic paralysis claims alleged to have been caused by vehicle design causing roll-over tendency
      • As an attorney, tried products liability claim against international motorcycle manufacturer following injuries due to loss of steering control at high speed
      • As settlement conference judge, settled numerous cases involving personal injuries, loss of consortium and wrongful death
      • Presided over jury trial of premises liability/FELA claim following injuries to railroad employees on employer premises
  • Professional Liability
      • As an attorney, represented numerous attorneys and law firms throughout California in legal malpractice/breach of fiduciary duty claims; many of these cases were resolved by mediation, law and motion, trial and/or appeal; argued one of the seminal cases on the legal malpractice statute of limitations—Adams v. Paul (1995) 11 Cal. 4th 583—before the Supreme Court of California
      • As an attorney, served as the chair of the State Bar Committee on Professional Liability Insurance for over a decade
      • Presided over jury trial of medical malpractice claim alleging that prescribed medication precipitated debilitating stroke
      • Presided over jury trial of medical malpractice claim alleging that use of medical device resulted in death of patient
      • Presided over jury trial of medical malpractice claim asserting that physician failed to properly diagnose cancerous melanoma leading to death of young adult
      • Presided over jury trial of medical malpractice claim on bifurcated statute of limitations defense
      • Presided over and issued rulings in numerous medical and legal malpractice cases, including summary judgment proceedings relating to standard of care and statute of limitations issues
  • Real Estate & Real Property
      • Presided over law and motion, settlement conferences and trials of numerous real property and real estate cases, including property valuation and condemnation matters
      • Presided over multi-party litigation involving development financing and environmental mitigations credits
      • Presided over trials involving shopping center lease disputes, commercial landlord-tenant disputes, property acquisition and lease-back disputes, lien priority and title disputes, and partnership dissolution/funding cases
      • Conducted settlement conferences involving all aspects of real property law, including real estate partnership dissolutions, step-down transactions, bank financing and foreclosure, commercial property development and entitlements, specific performance actions, easement acquisition and enforcement, adverse possession and prescriptive easement claims, condominium and joint-tenancy disputes, property line disputes, title insurance, CC&R enforcement, association liability claims and water diversion litigation

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Judge of the Year, Sacramento County Bar Association, 2017
  • Judge of the Year Award of Honor, Capitol City Trial Lawyers Association, 2013
  • Judge of the Year, Sacramento Chapter, American Board of Trial Advocates, 2012
  • Voice of Conscience Award, Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court, 2008
  • Distinguished Service Award, Judicial Council of California, 1994

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Member, Judicial Council of California 1989-1993
    • Judicial Council Committee Assignments, 1989–1991
      • Committee on Gender Bias in the Courts
      • Court Management Committee
      • Appellate Courts Committee
    • Judicial Council Committee Assignments, 1991–1993
      • Committee to Effectuate the Gender Fairness Proposals
      • Executive Committee
      • Appellate Committee
  • Committee Memberships, Judicial Council of California, 1998-2010
    • Judicial Council Task Force on the Quality of Justice
    • Subcommittee on Alternative Resolution
    • Civil and Small Claims Advisory Committee
  • Elected Member, Board of Governors, State Bar of California, 1986–1989
    • Committees, 1986–1987
      • Board of Governors Committee on Attorney Discipline
      • Professional Standards Committee
      • Commission on Professional Liability Insurance
      • Member for Central and Eastern Districts of California, Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Judge Selection Panel, Chair: Hon. Anthony M. Kennedy
      • Board of Governors’ Liaison to the Judicial Nominations and Evaluations Commission
    • Committees, 1987–1988
      • Board of Governors Committee on Attorney Discipline
      • Attorney Discipline System
      • Chair, State Bar Planning Committee
      • Chair, Legislative Key Contacts Committee
      • Board of Governors Liaison, Committee of Bar Examiners
    • Committees, 1988–1989
      • Chair, Board of Governors Committee on Attorney Discipline
      • Chair, Committee on Professional Liability Insurance
    • Vice President, State Bar of California, 1988
  • Committee Member, State Bar of California
    • Commission on the Future of the Legal Profession, 1992–1994
    • Committee on Professional Liability Insurance, 1988–2007

Selected Publications

  • Author, Model Interrogatories, James Publishing Co., First Edition, 1987
    • First Edition, California Discovery
    • First Edition, Vehicular Negligence
    • First Edition, Premise Liability
    • First Edition, Product Liability
    • 1988, Insurance Law & Liability
    • 1989, Legal Malpractice
    • 1990, Wrongful Death and Survival
    • 1991, Medical Malpractice
    • 1992, Government Tort Liability
    • 1993, Employment Termination
    • 1994, Loss of Consortium & Punitive Damages
    • 1995, Sexual Harassment & Premises Liability
    • 1996, Workplace Violence & Age Discrimination
  • Author, Model Interrogatories, James Publishing Co., Second Edition, 1997
    • 1998, Fraud and Deceit
    • 2000, Elder Abuse
    • 2001, Interference With Business Relations
    • 2002, Americans With Disabilities Act
    • 2003, Deposition Procedure
    • 2004, Anti-SLAPP Practice
    • 2005, Defamation
    • 2006, Invasion of Privacy
    • 2007, Breach of Contract
    • 2008, Intentional Torts
    • 2009, Fraudulent Conveyances
    • 2010, Actions Under 28 U.S.C.1983
    • 2011, Age Discrimination
    • 2012, Workplace Violence
    • 2013, Quasi Contracts and Common counts
    • 2014, Domestic Violence and Gender-Related Violence
    • 2016, Dental Malpractice
  • Author, Cases and Materials on Advanced Torts, University Press, 2000–2008

Selected Professional Activities

  • Professor of Law, University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
    • Assistant Professor, 1976–1977,1977–1978
    • Adjunct Professor of Law, 1978–1979, 1979–1980, 1980–1981, 1981–1982, 1982–1983, 1985–1986, 1986–1987, 1987–1988, 1990–present
      • Professional Responsibility
      • Insurance Law
      • Advanced Torts
    • Visiting Professor of Law, 1983–1984, 1984–1985
  • Faculty Member, Committee on Continuing Legal Education, State Bar of California, 1978,1986
  • Faculty Member, Hastings Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy, Hastings College of the Law, 1984–1989

Background and Education

  • Judge, Sacramento County Superior Court, 2008–2022
    • Presiding Judge, 2016–2017
    • Assistant Presiding Judge, 2014–2015
  • Mediating the Litigated Case, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine University School of Law, 2005
  • Partner; Hansen, Culhane, Kohls, Jones & Sommer; 2003–2008
  • Partner; Hansen, Boyd, Culhane & Watson; 1978–2003
  • Associate, Matsui & Hansen, 1977–1978
  • J.S.M., Stanford University, 1977
  • J.D., University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 1976
    • Editor-in-Chief, Pacific Law Journal
    • Outstanding Graduating Senior, 1976
    • Dean’s Honor List, 1973–1976
    • Outstanding Law Student Award, 1975, 1976
  • Attended, California State University, San Bernardino, 1970–1973


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