Elaine Rushing

Hon. Elaine Rushing (Ret.)

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator and Referee/Special Master

Case Manager
Julie McCool
T: 415-774-2612
F: 415-982-5287
Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 1500, San Francisco, CA 94111


Hon. Elaine Rushing (Ret.) served on the Sonoma County Superior Court bench for nearly two decades, including five years as Supervising Judge of the Civil Division. She was the first woman appointed as judge on the Sonoma County Superior Court in 1992. As a Judge, she heard major personal injury cases; real estate cases including real estate fraud, broker compensation, adverse possession, partition, boundary disputes, homeowners association disputes; CEQA litigation; business disputes including trademark infringement and trade secrets; trusts and estates litigation; agribusiness cases; and construction defect litigation. In addition, on the bench, Judge Rushing handled hundreds of settlement conferences in a variety of civil cases, including business litigation, construction, personal injury, employment, real estate, family law, and trusts, estates and probate matters.

Judge Rushing is known for being able to quickly grasp complex facts, for being well prepared, and for listening carefully to both sides to quickly synthesize the facts to achieve a fair resolution. She excels at bringing divergent points of view to a workable solution, as evidenced by her leadership in consolidating the Sonoma County Superior and Municipal courts while Presiding Judge of the Superior Court in 1994 and 1995.

Judge Rushing has served extensively as a faculty member for the Continuing Judicial Studies Program and has taught Probate to Judges New to the Assignment Program numerous times.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • In 2005, Judge Rushing spearheaded the popular Superior Court-annexed Mediation Program, in which over 700 cases have been successfully mediated
  • The ADR Section of the Sonoma County Bar Association presented Judge Rushing a Certificate of Recognition for her long and strong support of ADR in the Superior Court
  • On the bench, Judge Rushing handled hundreds of settlement conferences for various civil cases, including business, construction, employment and real estate matters
  • Judge Rushing currently teaches Negotiations at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)

Representative Matters

  • Agribusiness
    • Handled a breach of contract case for two major wineries against their distributor and its owner involving allegations of failure to provide service
  • Business/Commercial
    • Resolved complex three-way dispute among owners/lessors of rural real property, growers/tenants cultivating legally grown cannabis, and investors financing the joint venture. The matter involved two separate lawsuits in one of which the court had granted a mandatory injunction which had been bonded
    • Settled a case between the FDIC and numerous former officers, directors and investors of a company, with allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, and RICO violations
    • Handled a case involving a dispute between a construction company and several commercial lenders
    • Settled California lawsuit and similar case in Texas brought by California industrial equipment rental company which had delivered numerous generators to Texas company experiencing power outage.  The cases had generated tens of thousands of dollars of attorneys fees in both states which made settlement very difficult
    • Mediated commercial future rent case involving 5-year lease of professional office space 
    • Handled a fraud case between a homeowner and solar panel company involving a misrepresentation of the solar panel output 
  • Cannabis
    • Resolved complex three-way dispute among owners/lessors of rural real property, growers/tenants cultivating legally grown cannabis, and investors finacning the joint venture. The matter involving two separate lawsuits in one of which the court had granted a mandatory injunction which had been bonded
  • Construction Defect
    • Arbitrated real estate case involving implications of an “as is” clause on purchaser’s claims of major hidden defects in property
  • Discovery/Referee
    • Served as a referee on a matter involving an alleged sexual assault upon a hotel guest by an employee of a major hotel
  • Employment
    • Mediated suit involving claims of harassment, intimidation, assaults, batteries, infliction of emotional distress, gender and national origin discrimination in violation of FEHA, and violation of civil rights
    • Handled numerous wrongful termination and discrimination employment matters, some with millions of dollars in damages claims
    • Mediated wrongful termination case alleging sex and race discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, and Labor Code section 1120.5 whistleblower protection
    • Mediated 16-plaintiff, 3-county wage and hour dispute against major child care corporation in which plaintiff on-site managers alleged they were wrongfully classified as exempt, depriving them of millions of dollars of overtime pay
    • Mediated disparate treatment employment case involving a major automobile company, including claim of racial discrimination
    • Mediated wrongful termination case between a hospitality company, involving discrimination based upon medical leave
    • Mediated suit involving solicitation of employees by intentional misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, breach of employment contract, and nonpayment of wages
  • Estates/Probate/Trusts
    • Mediated suit between siblings concerning an agreement they had entered into as to how to equalize their future inheritance at a time when they felt they risked disinheritance by a parent affected by dementia
    • Mediated numerous intra-family disputes in which one sibling lives with and cares for an elderly dependent parent and the siblings have serious disagreements concerning the sibling’s right to compensation and acknowledgement
    • Arbitrated matter involving purchase of annuity by two of three siblings for their aging parent and ensuing dispute concerning proper interpretation of a previous settlement agreement concerning  several million dollars in the mother's trust and the annuities
    • Appointed Trustee ad Litem in large trust action to decide what positions to take with regard to pending Probate Code section 850 Petitions and to pursue any remedy with regard to those petitions that the Trustee ad Litem deems appropriate. Claims involve  lack of capacity, breach of fiduciary duty, and undue influence, among others
    • Mediated case wherein one party for years had inhabited a dwelling willed to a sibling
    • Mediated matter where central issue was decedent's capacity to leave his wife and thereby disinherit her under the terms of his trust
    • Mediated trust dispute in which trustor had provided that certain beneficiaries were to receive assets "having an aggregate net fair market value of"  [X Dollars].  Questions arose as to the characterization of the trustor's assets, out of which properties were the specific gifts to be made, the fair market values of the properties, and the like
    • Handled a sensitive and complicated matter between a local winery owner and his daughter involving various actions regarding the daughter’s tenancy on 160 acres of winery and her allegations of fraud against her father. The case involved the IRS, complex trust law and accounting issues
    • Mediated conservatorship case involving an elderly conservatee, in  which petitioner (one of the conservatee’s children) alleged that the institutional conservator had permitted the conservatee’s estate to suffer a severe decline of hundreds of thousands of dollars; excessive billing practices; poor investment decisions benefitting the conservator; and interfering with the conservatee’s ability to spend cherished time with his children
    • Handled a bitterly contested trust petition in which there was a claim of a contract to make identical reciprocal wills, and allegations that the contract was breached
    • Settled trust dispute involving an amendment to a trust that was patently ambiguous which had been altered over time to gift items to different family members. Involved complex relationships, emotions, as well as missing items that threatened the ability of parties to reach an agreement
    • Mediated bitterly-contested trust dispute involving siblings' varying interpretations of their mother's intentions concerning distribution of her multi-million dollar trust assets to them 
    • Resolved complex trust matter between siblings concerning assignment of life insurance proceeds and promissory notes
  • Family Law
    • Mediated palimony case in which plaintiff allegedly quit her job, sold her house and moved across the country based on defendant’s promises to support her for the rest of her life, employ her, include her in his will, and set aside $150,000 for her in a separate bank account. Defendant filed a cross complaint alleging elder abuse
    • Settled contentious case between formerly married couple regarding ex-wife’s promise to share inheritance with ex-husband in return for yearly payments prior to receiving inheritance
    • Handled the second phase of a complicated divorce matter concerning the valuation of the parties’ numerous assets, reimbursement claims by one party for separate property contributions in the form of money and labor to community property, and community reimbursement claims for the value of post-separation use of community property
  • Personal Injuries/Torts
    • Mediated and arbitrated numerous motor vehicle accident cases, some involving numerous plaintiffs and cross-complaints
    • Handled cases involving serious dog bites, significant injuries by construction workers, and multi-party product liability cases
  • Professional Liability/Malpractice
    • Arbitrated case in which decedent committed suicide while under care of physician; decedent's wife and children alleged physician's medical treatment fell below the standard of care, resulting in decedent's death
  • Real Estate
    • Mediated a mortgage fraud case resulting in a new 40-year-term below market rate home loan
    • Mediated major trespass/property damage case involving a 100,000 pound hydraulic telescoping crane that smashed through the roof of a family’s residence during a tree removal
    • Resolved a real property dispute after a lengthy trial; case involved three separate owners of the property; resolution involved determining what portion of the property they each owned and determining ouster damages
    • Mediated an intra-family boundary dispute involving all boundaries of a 107-acre rural parcel, mainly having to do with the doctrine of agreed boundaries
    • Resolved case regarding default on a real estate loan and subsequent foreclosure on property
    • Settled a case involving former real estate co-owners suing each other for specific performance, breach of contract, promissory estoppels, unjust enrichment, and quiet title
    • Mediated an extremely acrimonious declaratory relief controversy which initially began as a dispute between two neighbors involving the use and overuse of a small hillside parking spaced between their properties, and involved complex insurance issues as well
    • Mediated long-term residential tenancy case involving claims of breach of the covenant of habitability consisting of severe mold growth, flooding and rodent infestation
    • Mediated 9-year residential tenant's claims of uninhabitable conditions, retaliatory eviction, and unlawful retention of security deposit
    • Mediated a leasing matter involving a contract that misrepresented the effects of COVID-19 in the leaser’s surrounding properties
    • Mediated dispute over inheritance of property foreclosure by lender
Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS.

  • Currently Teaches Negotiations, University of California Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)
  • Panelist, 3-hour program on Recent Changes in Testamentary Capacity Rules, From Drafting Through Trial, 2016
  • Member, Richard M. Sangster American Inn of Court (Sonoma-Napa-Marin), 2011-present
  • Member, Judicial Council Probate Law Curriculum Committee, 2010-2015
  • Awarded Certificate of Recognition by the Sonoma County Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Section for her encouragement and support of alternative dispute resolution, 2010
  • Chair, Sonoma County Superior Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, 2006-2010
  • Chair, Sonoma County Superior Court Civil Bench-Bar Committee, 2006-2010
  • Member (Vice Chair since February 2009), Judicial Council Probate and Mental Health Education Advisory Committee, November 2007-March 2010
  • Chair, Planning Committee, California Supreme Court Special Oral Argument Session, Sonoma County, October 2007
  • President, (member since 1994) Edward J. McFetridge American Inn of Court in San Francisco, 2003-2004
  • Member, Judicial Council Civil and Small Claims Standing Advisory Committee, 1993-1994, 1998-2002 (Chair, Uniform Rules Subcommittee)
  • Member, CJSP Planning Committee, 1999-2004
  • Chair, Sonoma County Community Focused Court Planning Team, 1999-2001
  • Member (formerly President), Sonoma County Law Library Board of Trustees, 1998-2010
  • Chair, CJA Elections Committee, 1999, 2000
  • Panelist on Judicial Elections, CJA Mid-year and Annual Conferences, 1999
  • Member, CJSP Civil Law and Procedure Institute Planning Committee, 1997
  • Member, CJA 1997 Annual Meeting Planning Committee
  • Member, CJA Civil Law and Procedure Committee, 1993-1999
  • Member, (Chair, 1997 to 2002) CJA/State Bar Joint Working Group on Uniform Local Courts Rules
  • Chair, CJA Civil Law and Procedure Subcommittee on Pretrial Discovery, 1994
  • "Woman of the Year," Sonoma County Women in Law, 1994
  • Member, Board of Trustees, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, 1993-1998 (Chair, Community Benefit Committee)
  • Member, Advisory Board of the Junior League of Napa-Sonoma, 1993-1998
  • Keynote Speaker, Barristers Club, Sonoma County Bar Association, August 2010
  • Consultant, Conservatorship Proceedings, California Judges Benchguide 301, 2010
  • Speaker on a variety of topics before professional organizations including the California Judges Association, State Bar of California Litigation Section, Sonoma County Bar Association, National Business Institute, AOC Civil Law Institute, and various universities
  • Judge, Sonoma County Superior Court, 1992-2010
    • Supervising Judge, Civil Division, Sonoma County Superior Court, 2005-2010
    • Probate Judge, Sonoma County Superior Court, 2005-2010
    • Presiding Judge, Sonoma County Superior Court, 1995-1996
  • Civil trial attorney, private practice, 1979-1992
  • Graduate, Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine University, “Mediating the Litigated Case,” 2006
  • J.D., Hastings College of Law, Order of the Coif, 1979 (Research Editor, Hastings Law Journal, 1978-1979)
  • National Defense Fellow, University of Wisconsin, 1969-1970 (Ph.D. candidate in Geography)
  • B.A., Phi Beta Kappa with Honors in German, Syracuse University, 1969

Counsel Comments

    • “Judge Rushing has a good sense of when to move and how much.  She is able to generate flexibility with all sides.”

      –Experienced Litigator



Practice Areas

  • Agribusiness
  • Arbitration
  • Business/Commercial
  • Construction
  • Employment
  • Estates/Probate/Trusts
  • Real Property
Available nationwide


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