James Smith

Hon. James L. Smith (Ret.)

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator and Referee/Special Master

Case Manager
Denise Mitchell
T: 714-937-8229
F: 714-939-8710
5 Park Plaza, Suite 400, Irvine, CA 92614

James L. Smith is available to conduct cases virtually. JAMS is equipped to provide virtual ADR services on a variety of online platforms, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and more.


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
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
  • 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




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