Hon. W. Scott Snowden (Ret.)

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Agribusiness

Hon. W. Scott Snowden (Ret.), with his brother, owns and operates Snowden Vineyards. Located in the hills overlooking the Napa Valley between St. Helena and Rutherford, Snowden Vineyards farms 23 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. It also produces and sells three wines, including Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve which recently received 95 points from wine critic, Robert Parker. Snowden Vineyards was named one of Napa Valley’s 50 top producers of cabernet by Wine Spectator in late 2006, based on ratings from 1990 to 2003.

Judge Snowden has been a grape grower for over 30 years. He is actively and personally involved in all phases of winery operation: grape growing, grower/winery relations, production including contaminant management, compliance, marketing, public relations, advertising, sales and distribution, including direct and distributor sales in franchise and non-franchise states.

Snowden Vineyards has sold fruit to Ramey Wine Cellars, Silver Oak, Frank Family Vineyards, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Viader, Caymus, and Kendall Jackson. Judge Snowden is actively involved in all phases of farming: planting and clonal rootstock selection, training, canopy management, pest control, fertilization, irrigation, crop management, harvest, and winery relations.

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Representative Matters

  • Business Valuation and Trade Name Protection
    • Mediation of lawsuit over ownership of wine business, contractual/partnership disputes and tradename ownership; successfully resolved
  • Farm Construction Defect
    • Mediation of claim for money due by contractor for construction of vineyard irrigation lake/dam. Cross action for alleged defects. Successfully mediated dispute among parties
  • Grower/Winery Relations Action
    • Arbitration of claims regarding alleged termination of grape purchase agreement upon change of vineyard ownership; award issued
  • Grower/Winery Valuation Action
    • Successfully settled action for damages under personal guaranty following rejection of grape purchase agreement in bankruptcy court. Issues regarding present and future valuation of premium wine grapes, adequacy of mitigation efforts, etc.
  • Real Property:
    • Mediated case involving trespass and ejectment between landowner and adjacent vineyard operator; issues of prescription and collateral estoppel by reason of earlier lawsuit between same parties
  • Trademark:
    • Mediated case involving violation of Federal Court injunction against trademark infringement by one winery/grapegrower upon the registered trademark of an ultra-premium winery
  • Winemaker Compensation/Ownership Dispute
    • Successfully mediated lawsuit against winery for compensation by consulting winemaker and viticulturalist upon termination of contract for production of super-premium wines
  • Winery Business Disputes
    • Lawsuit between wine distribution company and an executive thereof, both owners of two wine brands; involved dispute over ownership interest and rights to share in profits. Included issues regarding entitlements incident to trademark ownership, cost allocations, adequacy of marketing/sales activities, etc. Buyout of minority interest and employment contract successfully mediated
    • Dispute between internationally renowned winemaking/viticultural consulting firm and world class boutique winery over termination of contract, including mutual allegations of failures to perform; conflicting positions on recoverability of damages
    • Claim for damages for loss of a winery’s entire vintage from alleged contamination by a tainted product used in the vinification process, involving issues of wine quality, methods of disposal, and maintenance of market position during year without wine to sell
    • Dispute between major national distributor and winery with multi-million dollar annual sales regarding contract for marketing and distribution, involved issues of sales procedures, guarantees and costs of services, retailer and restaurant incentives, depletion accountings, distributor transitions including dual distributorships in franchise states
    • Mediation of dispute between seller of winery and buyer; issues related to duty to pay for post-sale custom crush services provided by buyer to seller; further issues related to alleged failure of wastewater disposal system and compliance with covenants in buy-sell agreement
  • Winery Construction Defect
    • Settled collection action by contractor for money allegedly due for remodeling of winery. Cross action for allegedly defective work
  • Winery Employment Dispute
    • Lawsuit by former cellar master for wrongful termination, alleging FEHA violation for firing in retaliation for job-related disability; defendant asserted legitimate business related reasons for elimination of position
    • Mediation dispute between vineyard manager and vineyard management company, issues of employee/partner status of manager; alleged wage, hour, and pay violations by company; alleged embezzlement; and other improprieties
  • Winery Equipment Wrongful Death
    • Wrongful death action for death of vineyard manager, crushed by allegedly defective farm loader; settled for $1.5 million
  • Winery Insurance Coverage and Subrogation
    • As a judge, presided over jury trial in which insurance companies sought $30 million in subrogation for losses in winery warehouse fire; presided over related coverage disputes and settlements
    • Served as neutral appraiser on three-member panel charged with determining fire insurance proceeds payable to operator of wine warehouse destroyed by arson-caused fire; subsequently served as mediator assisting parties in reaching multi-million dollar settlement
  • Winery Landlord/Tenant Disputes
    • Landlord/tenant dispute over rent escalation provisions of vineyard ground lease in prime premium wine grape growing location
    • Arbitration of landlord/tenant disputes over ground lease for vineyard development and operation and premises lease for operation of a super-premium winery, involving construction issues, operational disputes, and local government regulation
  • Winery Lost Profits Dispute
    • Legal malpractice action seeking damages for lost profits of winery by reason of alleged mishandling of probate matters; successful multi-million dollar settlement
  • Winery Premises Liability and Personal Injury
    • Mediated action for injuries suffered in recreation area adjacent to winery’s tasting facility; successfully settled
    • Successfully settled lawsuit for personal injuries by contractor moving equipment at a winery
  • Winery Purchase
    • As a judge, presided over shareholder challenge to $1.3 billion winery purchase

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

  • Recognized as "Top Neutral," Daily Journal Top California Neutrals List, 2013
  • California Center for Judicial Education and Research, teacher at numerous programs and presentations, including many years as a presenter and team leader for the Continuing Judicial Studies Program for Presiding Judges and Court Administrators
  • California Administrative Office of the Courts, frequent presenter at programs for administrators; twice member of Presiding Judges’ Standing Advisory Committee; member, Criminal Law Standing Advisory Committee
  • National Judicial College, faculty member teaching Effective Caseflow Management, and Complex Litigation
  • Teacher/Lecturer, various subjects relating to case management and court administration in California, Nevada, Missouri, Maryland, South Carolina, Florida, and Toronto, Canada
  • California Judges Association, 1980-present
  • "Mr. Mediator Man, " ADR Profile, Daily Journal, July 16, 2010
  • "Uncorked: Retired judge Scott Snowden is the arbiter of fine wine and more," San Francisco Chronicle, October 26, 2007

Background and Education

  • Judge (often Presiding Judge), Napa Superior Court, 1985-2005
  • Judge (often Presiding Judge), Napa Municipal Court, 1980-1985
  • Partner, Coombs, Dunlap, Dunlap & Champlin (now Coombs & Dunlap), Napa, CA, 1972-1980
  • City Attorney, Yountville, CA, 1977-1980
  • Deputy City Attorney, Napa, 1972-1980
  • Commissioner and Chairman, Napa County Planning Commission, 1976-1980
  • Commissioner and Chairman, St. Helena City Planning Commission, 1973-1975
  • United States Army, Captain, Signal Corps, 1968-1976
  • J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law (formerly Boalt Hall School of Law), 1971
  • B.A., Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA, 1968

Disclaimer

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