Robert Dondero

Hon. Robert L. Dondero (Ret.)

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator, Referee/Special Master, Neutral Evaluator, Hearing Officer

Case Manager
Kathleen Hanley
T: 415-774-2617
F: 415-982-5287
Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 1500, San Francisco, CA 94111


Hon. Robert L. Dondero (Ret.) is a full-time mediator, arbitrator and neutral evaluator at JAMS. Before joining JAMS, Justice Dondero served for nearly 10 years on the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One and 17 years as a Superior Court judge in San Francisco. When handling matters, Justice Dondero dives deep into the facts and legal principles involved in the dispute. His detail-oriented nature and vast knowledge of the law allows him to be an efficient and effective neutral when handling both mediations and arbitrations.

When mediating, Justice Dondero is described as deeply engaged and is noted for asking probing questions to both sides to gain understanding of each parties’ position. Justice Dondero is proactive with clients before a mediation session, hosting pre-mediation calls with counsel and reading all briefs and materials submitted.

In arbitrations, Justice Dondero is known for managing the process efficiently and fairly. He provides parties with an opportunity to be fully heard while moving the process to conclusion. Justice Dondero honors the arbitration process by thoroughly reviewing all items submitted by counsel, building rapport with both sides and keeping the momentum of the case going.

ADR Qualifications

  • Served as a member of the Superior Court of San Francisco, including terms as Assistant Presiding Judge and Presiding Judge,
  • Served as a mediator and/or settlement judge for numerous cases pending in the trial court 
  • Extensively participated in legal and judicial education, teaching students and attorneys on a variety of topics including trial practice, civil evidence, criminal law and appellate practice 

Representative Matters

Neutral Evaluation and Mock Trial of Appellate and Trial Cases 

  • Served as a neutral evaluator of a case involving a theory of product liability and negligence arising from injuries sustained in the use of a trailer
  • Served as a neutral evaluator of a pending appeal before the appellate courts, dealing with the deeds in property transfer and attorney fees and costs 
  • Served as a neutral evaluator of a federal appeal, involving preemption doctrine and its application to interstate truck rental company and personal injury 
  • Served as a neutral evaluator in case where retired public employee claimed his injury was work-related and therefore entitled to increased retirement compensation. Case required testimony of several witnesses 
  • Member of Mock Trial panel hearing appellate arguments in title dispute between commercial neighbors over multimillion dollar Bay Area property involving bankruptcy issues and conflicts between trial and bankruptcy court orders.
Arbitrations Handled
  • Member of a tripartite arbitration involving the breach of contract claims between parties in an attorney and client dispute
  • Member of a tripartite arbitration involving the obligation of an art gallery and its supplier 
  • Arbitrator of a property dispute between the seller and purchaser of commercial real estate 
  • Arbitrator of a claim based on Title VII and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing between a partner and the law firm. The case focused on the wage benefits to partners and executive compensation. Gender issues were involved in the case 
  • Arbitration in multi-claimant online crowd funding platform dispute between various campaign contributors and the provider. The case focused on contributors claims of a breach of the ‘Terms of Use’ by the provider
  • Arbitrated a claim of age discrimination by a senior employee of a construction firm 

Business and Commercial 

  • Successfully mediated a dispute between a general contractor and sub-contractor over scope of work responsibilities 
  • Successfully mediated a legal malpractice claim by clients against their attorneys 
  • Handled mediation involving a dispute between a subcontractor and the general contractor and his insurer over payments and the alleged breach of contract by the subcontractor 

Class Actions 

  • Appeal of a wage and hour bench trial where the lower court ruled against employer. The damage award, class certification and fees were reversed.  The decision was affirmed by the California Supreme Court (59 Cal. 4th 1 (2014)) (Duran v. U.S. Bank National Association (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 212)
  • Nonexempt employees filed class action against their employer claiming they had violated laws regarding meal and rest breaks (Koval v. Pacific Bell Telephone (2014)232 Cal.App.4th 1050) 
  • Employee filed class action on behalf of specialists working for the defendant, claiming the employer had misclassified the employees as exempt from California labor regulations (Mies v. Sephora USA (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 967)


  • Settled wage and hour case involving almost 100 employees of cannabis business, and their related PAGA claims
  • Handled arbitration involving employee claim of discrimination by employer involving ADA discrimination 
  • Handled claim involving age discrimination by employer against employee 
  • Arbitrated alleged wrongful termination dispute based on retaliation where the employee had challenged wage policies of the employer 
  • Arbitrated dispute between a managing partner of a law firm and the partnership regarding his retirement package, including benefits and terms of departure 
  • Arbitrated several wage and hour claims relating to the failure to pay appropriate wages, overtime, meal and rest break requirements, as well as accurate wage statements and the maintaining of payroll records for the employee
  • Former employee filed class action suit against his employer alleging violations of the California Labor Code (Nelsen v. Legacy Partners Residential Inc. (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 1115)
  • Former city employee sued the city and his supervisors for sexual harassment and retaliation under FEHA. The opinion reversed summary judgment in favor of the city (Lewis v. City of Benicia (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1519)
  • Attorney sued a merged law firm claiming it had violated the terms for termination agreement by preventing him from receiving benefits (Jenks v. DLA Piper Rudnick Gray US LLP (2015) 243 Cal.App.4th 1)
  • Dispute amongst cab drivers alleging employer misclassified their employment status as independent contractors. The drives were deemed to be employees (Linton v. DeSoto Cab (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 1208)


  • Environmental matter regarding the impact of the demolition of campus buildings and gardens (Friends of College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Community College District (2013) 11 Cal.App.5th 595)
  • Decision by a county to undertake mitigated negative declaration (MND) instead of full environmental impact report (EIR) satisfied the requirements of CEQA (Coastal Hills Rural Preservation v. County of Sonoma (2017 WL 2118370)
  • Members of a community argued the city was obligated to conduct an EIR before entering into a municipal services agreement with Indian tribes to develop a casino (Parchester Village Neighborhood Council v. City of Richmond. (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 305)


  • Mediated case involving civil claim between a trucking company and a Workers Compensation insurer over the scope of the insured's coverage
  • Arbitrated dispute claiming the insurer's duty to defend insured over the claims of a third-party plaintiff against the insured 
  • Insureds’ sued insurer alleging bad faith and negligence. Decision reversed after review of insurance law regarding broker/agent distinction (Douglas v. Fidelity National Insurance Co. (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 392)
  • Insured owner of commercial property sued insurer for breach of contract and bad faith (Stephens & Stephens XII LLC. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 1131)
  • Bench trial involving declaratory relief by one carrier against others for the costs of environmental tort claims after comprehensive settlements with mutual insureds arising from previous lawsuits. Ruling affirmed. 
  • Bench trial involving insured who sued insurer under the UCL for using insurance brokers to sell auto insurance without complying with statutory requirements for filings with the Insurance Commissioner, and the charging of fees for services rendered. Ruling affirmed

Health Care Issues 

  • Mediated case presented by health insurer to recover fees paid to insured for hospital services after the insured had settled his case against third-party who caused the accident
  • Arbitrated dispute involving health insurer obligations to pay hospital for insureds’ medical expenses while they are patients at the hospital. Breach of contract and implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing
  • Handled arbitration involving health insurer who required its insureds to receive pharmacy services from sources other than the hospital the insurer had a contract with.  Breach of contract and implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing
  • In bench trial, reviewed claims by out-of-state hospitals against the California Department of Health Care Services challenging the constitutionality of differences in reimbursements for services to Medi-Cal patients in hospitals. The decision was affirmed at 97 Cal.App.4th 740 (2002). (Children’s Hospital & Medical Center v. Bonta (2002))
Personal Injury/Torts 
  • Mediated several separate claims involving sexual assault by ride-for-hire drivers and their passengers
  • Neutral analysis of liability issues dealing with trailer rental product injuring a consumer 
Intellectual Property 
  • Arbitrated contract claims involving multi-claimant online crowd funding platform between various campaign contributors and the provider. The case focused on contributor claims of a breach of the Terms of Use by the provider
  • Arbitrated contract dispute and allegations of fraudulent practices involving certain internet subscribers and the social media platform 
Real Estate and Real Property 
  • Arbitrated dispute involving real property sales agreement and the breach of contract due to breach of promises 
  • Member of Mock Trial panel hearing appellate arguments in title dispute between commercial neighbors over multimillion dollar Bay Area property involving bankruptcy issues and conflicts between trial and bankruptcy court orders.
  • Landlord brought action to enforce agreement with tenant (Kaufman v. Goldman (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 734)
  • Suit by one landowner against another based on encroachment, trespass, wrongful removal of trees and injunctive relief (Salazar v. Matejcek (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 634)
  • Heard dispute related to issues of the right of way between two parcels formerly connected and an implied easement to connect water (Thorstrom v. Thorstrom (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1406)
Select Honors Recieved 
  • St. Thomas More Award, St. Thomas More Society of San Francisco, 2009
  • Judge of the Year, Italian American Bar Association, 2006
  • Trial Judge of the Year, Bar Association of San Francisco, Barristers Club, 2005
  • Trial Judge of the Year, San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, 2004
Select Memberships and Leadership Positions
  • Board, Legal Aid at Work, San Francisco, 2019-Present 
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Riordan High School, 2017–present
  • Member, Board of Fellows, Santa Clara University, 2017–present
  • Board Member, St. Thomas More Society of San Francisco
  • Member, California Judicial Education and Research Committee, Judicial Council of California, 2005–2015,
    • Chair, 2012–2015
  • Delegate to nations such as Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Jordan, Institute for the Study and Development of Legal SystemsInstructor, Lorman Education Services programs involving civil trials and evidence, 2004–2008
  • Professor, Criminal Law, San Francisco Law School, 1990–2007
  • Successful completion of "Mediating the Litigated Case" at Pepperdine Law School, 2018
  • Associate Justice, California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One, 2009–2018
  • Member, California Judicial Education & Research Board of the Judicial Counsel, 2010-2017
    • Chairman, 2014-2017
  • Judge, San Francisco Superior Court, 1992–2009
    • Presiding Judge, 2005–2006
    • Assistant Presiding Judge, 2003–2004
    • Supervising Judge, Criminal Courts, 1998–2000
  • Assistant United States Attorney, Northern District of California, 1978–1992
  • Deputy District Attorney, Office of the District Attorney of San Francisco, 1971–1978
  • J.D., Berkeley Law School, University of California, 1970
  • B.A., Santa Clara University, 1967



Practice Areas

  • Appellate
  • Business & Commercial
  • Class Action & Mass Tort
  • Employment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Governmental/Public Agency
  • Health Care
  • Higher Education & Title IX
  • Insurance
  • Personal Injury/Torts
  • Professional Liability


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More