William Downes

Hon. William F. Downes (Ret.)

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator and Referee/Special Master

Case Manager
Diamond Lewis
T: 415-774-2649
F: 415-982-5287
Two Embarcadero Center,, Suite 1500,, San Francisco, CA 94111


Hon. William F. Downes (Ret.) is a JAMS DENVER neutral.  JAMS Denver is a licensee office. Policies and procedures may differ between JAMS, Inc., and JAMS Denver. Please visit https://jamsdenver.com/ or contact Lisa Gaige at admindocs@jamsdenver.com or 303-534-1254 for information related to JAMS Denver. 

Since joining JAMS in 2011, Hon. William F. Downes (Ret.) has successfully resolved disputes over diverse practice areas including energy, personal injury and professional liability. Drawing upon his 17 years of experience as a federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, Judge Downes brings to his ADR practice a great deal of insight on the legal process and numerous subject matters, enabling him to efficiently guide parties to settlement.

Judge Downes handles high profile cases in multiple states and he is known for his attentive, reasonable, and focused manner. He is praised by counsel for being extremely prepared and having a quick grasp of complex issues. Judge Downes has an innate ability to understand the reputations, emotions, and ongoing dynamics of a dispute, while still focusing the parties on resolution.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • Served 17 years as a Federal Judge where he presided over hundreds of jury and bench trials 
  • Nineteen years of experience as a trial lawyer, where he tried numerous jury trials and handled hundreds of disputes
  • Throughout his career, he served as a visiting judge in the Districts of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, the Eastern and Northern Districts of Oklahoma and Utah


  • Settlement of breach of contract and fraud claims amongst investment partners proceeds from sale of foreign government bonds
  • Mediated DOJ claims of misuse of Small Business Association (SBA) loans
  • Trademark infringement
  • $9.9 million settlement of an attorney's fee dispute in a class-action


  • Race, gender and age discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination
  • Whistle blower dispute re: fraud and misrepresentation with regard to the funding of '504 loans'
  • Settlement of pre-litigation same sex sexual harassment by a supervisor of his male subordinates
  • Mediated dispute between employee of a school district for violation of her first amendment rights in 42 U.S.C. 1983 and retaliation/wrongful termination


  • Mediated disputes between oil companies and land owners, working and non-working interest owners
  • $25 million settlement involving breach of electrical power purchase agreement
  • $21 million settlement of breach of contract, inflated production costs between working interest owners and royalty interest owners


  • Mediated bad faith claims, first and third party
  • Settlement of subrogation case brought by insurance company against a manufacturer of defective product that caused fire in residential dwelling
  • Settlement of pre-litigation dispute between an employer medical company and the insurer of an employee benefit plan.

Personal Injury/Torts

  • $15 million settlement of multi-plaintiff wrongful death suit involving company vehicle and driver 
  • Settlement of claims of negligence at recreational area resulting in teen killed by falling tree
  • $2.2 million settlement of wrongful death case involving the death of a young father of two who was broadsided by a gas truck.
  • Settlement of a mistaken identity/false arrest against the town Police Department

Professional Liability

  • Medical malpractice 
    • Malpractice and negligence involving a death at a Senior Center
    • Settlement of wrongful death of a newborn at Medical Center, resulting in new protocol for nurses
    • Orthopedic case stemming from the alleged surgical negligence which led to the development of a complication (compartment syndrome)
    • Suit against a treating physician and medical center after the death of a patient from a sudden hypoglycemic event
  • Legal malpractice
    • Settlement involving allegations of inadequate representation in appeal of trademark/patent infringement
    • Settlement of alleged poor drafting of financing documents for a multi-million dollar development, which documents did not make adequate provision for borrower’s default
    • Settlement of alleged professional negligence in the appeal of a patent infringement case
    • Settlement of dispute between bank and law firm for the alleged miss drafting of commercial loan documents. Multi-million dollar settlement was achieved based upon mediator's recommendation
  • Mediated professional negligence by an accounting firm for allegedly failing to properly prepare tax returns and related documents for a corporation over three taxable years

Representative Matters

Judicial Career

  • Ayers v. University of Wyoming, Case No. 10-CV-079-WFD. Civil rights case regarding free speech and free association and assembly.
  • Federal Trade Commission v. Accusearch, Inc., Case No. 06-CV-105-WFD, affirmed by Federal Trade Commission v. Accusearch, Inc., 570 F.3d 1187 (10th Cir. 2009). Federal Trade Commission (FTC) case against the operator of a website alleging unfair business practice in violation of federal laws regarding the sale of personal data.
  • Echo Acceptance Corp. and Echosphere Corp. v. Household Retail Services, Inc., Case No. 95-WY-605-WD, affirmed by Echo Acceptance Corp. v. Household Retail Services, Inc., 267 F.3d 1068 (10th Cir. 2001). Business case involving a dispute over a credit and financing arrangement.
  • Affirmed by In re Natural Gas Royalties, 562 F.3d 1032 (10th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff filed numerous coordinated qui tam actions under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(7), alleging that natural gas companies had underpaid royalties on gas purchased from federally owned or Indian lands. The cases were transferred as multi-district litigation (MDL) to Judge Downes in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.
  • Jefferson County School Dist. No. R-1 v. Moody’s Investor’s Services, Inc., 988 F.Supp. 1341 (D. Colo. 1997), affirmed by Jefferson County School Dist. No. R-1 v. Moody’s Investor’s Services, Inc., 175 F.3d 848 (10th Cir. 1999). Case involving school district’s attempts to refinance its indebtedness by issuing refunding bonds. School district brought fraud charges and allegations of materially false statements against Moody’s for interfering in contractual relations between the school and their credit rating agencies.

Legal Career

  • Tried numerous professional malpractice cases, including medical malpractice cases to jury. Cases involved high emotions, professional reputations, complex medical and technical issues, as well as underlying insurance coverage considerations.
  • Tried cases involving fraud issues related to financial and banking institutions and their officers and directors
  • Handled multiple catastrophic personal injury cases
  • Handled numerous insurance cases, including cases with claims of bad faith, subrogation, indemnity, inter-carrier and insured-carrier disputes, and liability coverage issues
  • Thurman Arnold Distinguished Support Award, University of Wyoming College of Law, 2014-2015
  • Honorary Professor of the State Educational Institute of Higher Professional Education, Saratov State Academy of Law, Saratov, Russian Federation, 2011
  • Co-founder, The Ewing T. Kerr Fellowship in American Law, University of Wyoming College of Law, 1997-2011
  • Member, Criminal Law Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, 2000-2006
  • Member, Wyoming State Bar, 1975-2015, Chair, Continuing Legal Education Committee, 1986-1990
  • Member, Colorado State Bar, 1988-present
  • Elected Member, American Law Institute, 2001-present
  • Judicial Council of the 10th Circuit, 2008-2010
  • AV Rated Lawyer, Martindale-Hubbell, 1988-1994
  • Best Lawyers in America, 1990-1994
  • Navy Commendation Medal with ‘V’; the Combat Action Ribbon and Vietnam Campaign Service Medal
  • U.S. District Judge, District of Wyoming, 1994-2011 
    • Chief Judge from 1999-2011
  • Partner, Brown & Drew Law Firm, Casper, Wyoming, 1978-1994
  • Partner, Clark & Downes, Green River, Wyoming, 1975-1978
  • U.S. Marine Corps, Active Duty 1968-1971
    • Released August, 1971 after service in Vietnam and Western Pacific
    • Honorably discharged with rank of Captain in 1980 
  • J.D., University of Houston Law Center, 1974 
  • B.A. Political Science, University of North Texas, 1968

Counsel Comments

    • Judge Downes “is exceptionally well prepared and because of his skill and experience, he is able to understand the facts and make effective use of them. He is a truly skilled mediator and he has great energy. He is intuitive and can quickly assess both issues as well as people.” 
    • “It is my fervent belief that Judge Downes is one, of only a very few, who possessed the personal and legal skills that were necessary to settle this case. We needed a forthright, no nonsense mediator and that is what we got.”
    • "We had a great experience yesterday with Judge Downes, whom I did not know previously. We weren’t able to get the case settled but Judge Downes was wonderful and we made a lot of progress. I think the case will settle and I predict Judge Downes will be the guy who makes it happen. He’s very impressive.”
    • “A minor miracle is what your settlement last night was being called in a firm wide recommendation that more attorneys use you going forward.”
    • “Judge Downes brought to the mediation a unique degree of gravitas…there were times when each side - both sides - were discouraged. But he made certain the process continued, even if slowly.”
    • “You have a truly skilled mediator and human being with Judge Downes. He is bright, has great energy, can quickly access both issues as well as people. It is my hope that he is exposed to very important and significant cases that have national and international scope…that is his proper stage.”
    • “Thank you so much for all of your hard work yesterday. It was a long and trying day, however I believe that a lot was accomplished and feel that through your efforts, I am finally at peace with the situation. I have never seen a mediator work as hard as you did, and I can’t thank you enough for your tenacity in getting the matter resolved. I hope that I will be able to utilize your talents in the future from the other side of the table.”
    • “Judge Downes successfully mediated our case yesterday. My family (home and office) will be always grateful to Judge Downes for his work in this case. It was a difficult mediation and he never once lost his patience and was always faithful to the idea of compromise and settlement to resolve our case. You have a wonderful man working with you.”



Practice Areas

  • Arbitration
  • Business/Commercial
  • Employment
  • Energy/Utility
  • Federal Judge
  • Insurance
  • Personal Injury/Torts
  • Professional Liability
  • Real Property
  • Special Master/Discovery Referee
Available nationwide

Denver Contact

To schedule a case with Judge Downes in Denver, please contact JAMS Denver at admindocs@jamsdenver.com or 303-534-1254.


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