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Hon. James L. Smith (Ret.)

Hon. James L. Smith (Ret.)

General Biography
Practice Areas
Business Commercial
Construction Defect
Estate Probate Trusts
Governmental & Public Agency
Intellectual Property
Personal Injury
Real Property
Special Master Discovery Referee
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Hon. James L. Smith (Ret.) retired from the Orange County Superior Court after two-and-a-half decades on the bench to become a full-time arbitrator, mediator, and discovery referee. In addition to serving two terms as Presiding Judge of the court, Judge Smith was Presiding Judge of the Probate Department, Supervising Judge of the Criminal Panel. Throughout his time on the bench, he was assigned to the Complex Litigation Panel, Family Law Panel, Criminal Trial Panel, Law and Motion, Civil Trials, Juvenile Court, and General Trials.

The breadth of Judge Smith's experience is one of the strengths he brings to the table as a neutral. He presided over thousands of settlement conferences and trials as a judge, and, since joining JAMS, has worked on thousands of cases as an arbitrator, mediator, or discovery referee, with special expertise in resolving complex cases. Highly regarded among counsel, Judge Smith is known for his extensive preparation before each matter that gives him more time to work with parties to craft creative and efficient resolutions to their disputes.

Representative Matters

  • Arbitration
      • Extensive experience arbitrating wide variety of complex disputes, both as sole arbitrator and on tri-panel matters
  • Business Commercial
      • Arbitrated and mediated numerous business-related disputes, including matters involving breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fee collection issues 
      • Served as special master and reference, for either discovery or accounting purposes, on numerous business and commercial disputes
  • Construction Defect
      • Served as mediator and court reference on several disputes involving construction defect issues 
  • Estate Probate Trusts
      • Served as arbitrator, mediator, special master and discovery referee on disputes arising out of estate, probate and trust matters
  • Governmental & Public Agency
      • Binding arbitration involving dispute over 10-figure government contract for military hardware 
  • Intellectual Property
      • E-Discovery referee on patent lawsuit filed against several large Internet-based companies 
      • Mediated patent dispute involving decedent’s license for complex electronic products 
      • Settled copyright infringement dispute involving security system for computer networks 
      • E-Discovery referee for many large federal disputes 
      • Neutral evaluator for several intellectual property claims 
  • Personal Injury
      • Mediated and arbitrated numerous personal injury disputes involving premises liability, product liability, automobile collision, wrongful death, and environmental pollution issues 
  • Real Property
      • Extensive experience resolving disputes involving real estate issues 
      • Special expertise in handling homeowners association matters 
      • Arbitrated several disputes between Homeowners Associations and service companies for failure to perform 
      • Disputes related to violations of Homeowners Association CC&Rs 
  • Special Master Discovery Referee
      • Handled wide variety of complex litigation matters as discovery and/or general referee, as well as special master 
      • Special master for e-discovery on large case involving dispute between competing toymakers over doll design

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS. 

  • Chair, Presiding Judges Advisory Committee to the Judicial Council, 1995
  • Governing Board, Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER), 1986-1992
  • Judicial Criminal Advisory Committee on Trial Court Coordination, 1974-1978
  • Judicial Criminal Justice Planning Committee, 1974-1978
  • President, Camp Osceola Board of Directors, 1974
  • President, Orange YMCA Board of Directors, 1964-1973
  • Member, Executive Committee, Orange County Superior Court, (7 years, not continuously)
  • Professor, Western State University College of Law, 1972-1989; (teaching Trial Practice, Trial Advocacy, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Introduction to Legal Education)
  • Member, faculty of numerous programs presented by the Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER) and the California Judges Association (CJA)
  • Taught at the California Judicial College and has served as Team Leader of the Large Court section of the Presiding Judges Institute presented by CJER
  • Participated in numerous CEB programs on various subjects including E-Discovery, Bias In the Workplace, Arbitration Procedures, Effective Mediation Practices, Managing Mental Health and Evidence
  • Served as instructor in Criminal Law for the Orange County Peace Officers Academy
  • "Levity Over Decorum," ADR Profile, Daily Journal, June 14, 2013

Background and Education

  • Judge, Orange County Superior Court, 1980-1995 (Presiding Judge, 1994-1995; Assistant Presiding Judge, 1991-1994; Complex Litigation Panel, 1992-1993; Presiding Judge, Probate Dept. 1987-1988; Supervising Judge, Criminal Panel, 1984-1985; Family Law Panel, 1982)
  • Judge, West Orange County Municipal Court, 1971-1980
  • Sole practitioner with emphasis on litigation, 1967-1971
  • Partner with Schlegel, Friedemann, Kelley & Smith, 1964-1967
  • Deputy District Attorney, County of Orange, 1963-1964 (founded Fraud Div., 1964)
  • Admitted to the California Bar and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 1963
  • LL.B. (JD), Hastings College of the Law
  • B.A., University of Redlands


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

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