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Ellen James

Hon. Ellen Sickles James (Ret.)

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Case Manager
Jesse Dienner
T: 415-774-2626
F: 415-982-5287
Two Embarcadero Center , Suite 1500 , San Francisco , CA 94111
Hon. Ellen Sickles James (Ret.), is known for her exceptional settlement skills and ability to connect to counsel and clients in both a personal and professional manner.  A respected and experienced mediator, Judge James communicates effectively and patiently to bring closure to the diverse range of complex issues she handles.  Through the thousands of cases she has settled nationwide, Judge James has earned the reputation of having a dedicated, compassionate and creative command.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

Since 1997, Judge James has served throughout the United States as a JAMS mediator, arbitrator, Judge Pro-Tem, and special master in multi-party, complex litigation in a multitude of areas of civil law.  She has mediated hundreds of complex personal injury, wrongful death, and employment cases.  She has expertise in business, commercial, real estate, and attorney fee disputes as well as a myriad of professional liability cases.  Her work has resulted in the settlement of complicated insurance coverage cases, wills and trusts, and construction litigation matters.

Representative Matters

  • Aviation: personal injuries, wrongful deaths and property damage including major airline, helicopter, small aircraft, and hot air balloon accidents
  • Business: law firm dissolutions and contract disputes
  • Class action: class action lawsuit brought against major national theater group where settlement resulted in a court-enforceable commitment to a timetable for installing captioning technology for the hearing impaired in every theater in California that is converted to digital projection
  • Construction: large developments with multiple construction and land acquisition issues, including mold
  • Employment: sexual harassment, racial, sexual, age discrimination and wage and hour class actions, theft of trade secret cases against former employees, ERISA claims
  • Environmental: toxic release from refineries resulting in thousands of claims for personal injury and property damage
  • Fraud: credit card fraud class actions
  • Insurance: coverage issues related to auto accident bodily injury, property damage to residential and commercial structures, bad faith disputes, entitlement to disability benefits, and inter-carrier disputes 
  • Landlord tenant: class actions involving failure to return security deposits, failure to itemize statement of security deposit deductions, and development project issues
  • Personal Injury: major pipeline explosion injury cases; amusement park catastrophic injury cases, medical malpractice injury claims, wrongful death claims, highly sensitive and emotionally charged cases involving abuse and injuries to children
  • Probate: wills and trust disputes
  • Product liability: vehicular airbags, tractors, farm equipment, construction equipment and commercial machinery
  • Professional Liability: legal, dental, medical, accounting, and chiropractic malpractice
  • Public entity: disputes between counties, cities and public transportation systems
  • Real Estate: lease, boundary, sales and commission disputes
  • Trade Secrets: settled a case involving allegations of trade secret theft by former employees
  • Recognized as a "Top Neutral," Daily Journal Top California Neutrals List, 2013
  • Member, Gender Task Force, JAMS, 2008-present
  • Distinguished Mediator of the Year Award, San Francisco Trial Lawyers' Association, 2008
  • Member, Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance, American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section, 2006-present
  • Adjunct Professor at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California 2002 and 2003
  • Lecturer for The American Bar Association, CEB, The Rutter Group, and numerous local Bar Associations and community groups
  • Above and Beyond Award, Alameda County Trial Lawyers Association, 1998
  • Served on the Judicial Council Complex Litigation Task Force, 1997-1999 and the Judicial Council Task Force on the Quality of Justice, 1997-1999
  • Chairperson, Contra Costa Superior Court Trials Committee and Civil Bench Bar Committee, 1991-1997
  • Organized Contra Costa Judicial Council Trials Management Program, 1991
  • Trial Judge of the Year, Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association, 1987
  • Member, Judicial Council Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts on Arbitrator Ethics
  • "Olive Branch Bearer," ADR Profile, Daily Journal, April 29, 2011
  • Presiding Judge, Civil Division, Contra Costa County Superior Court, 1991-1997
  • Superior Court Judge Liaison to First District Court of Appeal, 1990-1997
  • Presiding Judge, Superior Court Appellate Division, 1986
  • Associate Justice, (pro tem), First District Court of Appeal, 1985
  • Judge, Mt. Diablo Judicial District Municipal Court, 1976-1982; (elected Presiding Judge, 1978)
  • J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law (formerly Boalt Hall School of Law), 1969
  • B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1965

Counsel Comments


    Recognized as a "Top Neutral," Daily Journal Top California Neutrals List, 2013

    Distinguished Mediator of the Year, San Francisco Trial Lawyers' Association, 2008


    “Judge James’ reputation as a miracle worker is WELL deserved and hard-earned…She is just outstanding, and incredibly insightful.”
    - Well recognized litigator


    “[Judge James’] unique blend of talent, experience, people skills, and perseverance was masterful [and] perhaps more impressive than anything I have experienced was [her] continued involvement with the process long after a ten-hour session of mediation.”
    - Prominent founding partner of a nationally recognized law firm

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