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James Smith (Ret.)

Hon. James L. Smith (Ret.)

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Case Manager
Denise Mitchell
T: 714-937-8229
F: 714-939-8710
500 N. State College Blvd. , 14th Floor , Orange , CA 92868

Judge Smith has more than four decades of experience resolving disputes, both as a trial court judge and an independent mediator, arbitrator, special master, and discovery referee in both federal and state court litigation. As a trial judge for more than 26 years, he presided over thousands of cases, many of which were complex litigation matters involving business/commercial issues.

Judge Smith takes pride in his efforts to prepare himself for any proceeding, it being his belief that a neutral who understands the evidence and the issues at the commencement of any mediation or arbitration will be more effective and efficient in achieving a resolution of the dispute.

Representative Matters

  • Disputes related to money or interest owed under loan agreements 
  • Numerous panel arbitrations regarding failure to perform and breach of contract 
  • Disputes regarding collecting large amounts in attorney fees 
  • Special master for accounting issues related to crafts industry arbitration 
  • Matters regarding breach of contract, quantum merit, and monetary damages 
  • Issues regarding non-compete claims related to sale of company 
  • Numerous disputes involving Homeowners Associations 
  • Claims related to non-disclosure of pertinent information regarding purchase and sale of real property
  • Accounting referee for large arbitration case regarding award of major city contract for waste collection and disposal 
  • E-Discovery master for major commercial dispute regarding copyright and trade secret violations of popular toy 
  • Hearing officer for large city for disputes related to medicinal marijuana 
  • Discovery referee for complex fraud cases 
  • Discovery referee for disputes related to mortgage fraud 
  • Court reference for numerous employment disputes 
  • Special Master for auditing and writ of possession related to matching up invoices and serial numbers with hospital equipment 
  • Breach of guaranty claims against guarantors regarding construction loan documents
  • 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
  • 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

Counsel Comments

    “[Judge Smith was] able to take the cares and sorrows of interesting, sometimes very complex, clients and communicate to them that their outcome would be just.”

    - Prominent OC Attorney

    "I enjoy my work. I hope that's apparent to the parties and attorneys I deal with. I believe it makes their jobs easier."

    - Judge Smith

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