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


Judge Smith has more than four decades of experience resolving personal injury matters. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as both plaintiff and defense counsel on personal injury cases. As a trial court judge, he presided over thousands of claims, from those involving minor vehicle collisions to cataclysmic injury actions with multiple defendants.

Judge Smith is known among counsel for his thorough preparation before each matter, allowing the parties more time to focus on working together to resolve their dispute. He is regarded for his intellect and legal expertise, but is also able to put all sides of a case at ease with levity and humor. This approach to resolving cases, along with his background and experience, has earned him trust on both sides of the bar and among insurance carriers. 

Representative Matters

  • Arbitrator for personal injury dispute involving premises liability claims 
  • Case involving loss of fingers from punch press malfunction 
  • Court-appointed referee on personal injury case involving ambulance company 
  • Discovery referee on matters involving sudden-acceleration claims against automobile company 
  • Dispute involving electrocution by contact with high voltage overhead power line 
  • Dispute involving malfunctioning lift gate causing permanent loss of use of hand 
  • Experience handling numerous auto versus auto collisions resulting in wrongful death claims 
  • Handled matter involving malfunction of amusement park ride resulting in quadriplegia 
  • Heard matter involving multiple-death vehicle roll-over 
  • Matter involving carburetor malfunction, causing loss of vehicle control and injuries 
  • Matter involving malfunctioning machinery causing personal injuries (many) 
  • Mediated slip-and-fall claim against supermarket 
  • Mediator for disputes involving injuries caused by allegedly defective commercial kitchen appliances 
  • Personal injuries resulting from environmental pollution 
  • Premises liability arbitration involving patron of Native American casino who slipped and fell, later claiming that shoulder injury affecting his ability to work was caused by fall 
  • Wrongful death claims resulting from high-speed police chase
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

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