Hon. Elaine Rushing (Ret.)

T: 415-982-5267
F: 415-982-5287
Estates/Probate/Trusts

Hon. Elaine Rushing (Ret.) is a full time neutral at JAMS and has extensive experience with estate and probate matters having served on the Probate Bench of the Sonoma County Superior Court for five years in the course of her nearly 20-year judicial career.   Subsequently, Judge Rushing was selected to teach probate to sitting judges as part of the Continuing Judicial Studies Program.  While on the Bench, she handled hundreds of settlement conferences including contested accounting, estates, trusts, and conservatorships.  At JAMS, Judge Rushing regularly serves as a temporary judge, mediator, arbitrator, or referee in these matters.

In addition to her qualifications, Judge Rushing’s approach to the ADR process is well-suited for estate and probate matters.  She excels at bringing divergent points of view to a workable solution, especially when emotions are running high as is often the case in these 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.

Representative Matters

  • 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

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

  • Currently Teaches Negotiations, University of California Berkeley School of Law
  • 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-present
  • Co-Chair, Edward J. McFetridge American Inn of Court (San Francisco), 2003-present
  • 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-present
  • 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

Background and Education

  • 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

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