Hon. Ellen Sickles James (Ret.)

T: 415-982-5267
F: 415-982-5287

Judge James has served as an arbitrator and mediator throughout the United States in many multi-party, complex commercial disputes including several high profile class actions. She is known for her effective communication skills and efficient case management of complex business matters. She has settled thousands of cases throughout the United States.

Judge James’ extensive business/commercial expertise is sought out nationwide and covers a wide variety of areas including partnerships, joint venture agreements, franchise agreements, purchase and sale agreements, corporations, banking, trade secret agreements, and securities. Additionally, Judge James’ experience with business/commercial issues encompasses contractual disputes, dissolution of business/partnerships, lending disputes, breach of fiduciary duty, business defamation, attorney fee disputes, and unfair competition. 

Representative Matters

  • Mediated and resolved a class action involving lending fees
  • Mediated and resolved embezzlement matters
  • Mediated and settled a claim involving improper payment of wages and conditions of habitability in a structure in which employees were living
  • Successfully mediated a large credit card fraud class action
  • Successfully mediated several disputes between lawyers and law firms over earnings unpaid and percentages of case fees deserved at the time of departure
  • Successfully settled a large insurance class action
  • Mediated class action involving global e-commerce business related to the administration and handling of disputed transactions on member accounts including alleged violations under Electronic Fund Transfer Act

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

  • 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

Background and Education

  • 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


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