Sheila Sonenshine

Hon. Sheila Prell Sonenshine (Ret.)

Case Manager
Lisa Abrantes
T: 619-237-0801
F: 619-236-9032
5 Park Plaza, Suite 400, Irvine, CA 92614


Hon. Sheila Prell Sonenshine has resolved real estate disputes for over four decades as a lawyer, Judge, Justice, businesswoman, and mediator and arbitrator.

She heard thousands of cases in her nearly two decades on the bench, and as a Justice on the California Court of Appeal she authored numerous real property cases. Her published cases include MacManus v. A.E. Realty Partners (1987) 195 CA 3d 1106, BD Inns v. Pooley (1990) 218 CA 3d 289, Shaver v. Clanton (1994) 26 CA 4th 568, ADV Corporation v. Wikman (1986) 178 CA 3d 61, and Battram v. Emerald Bay Community Association (1984) 157 CA 3d 1184.

Known as an outstanding settler, Justice Sonenshine resolved hundreds of cases at settlement conferences, including 85% of those she heard under the appellate settlement conference program she inaugurated.

After retiring from the bench, she became a licensed California real estate broker and worked with mid size privately owned businesses as a co-founder of an international investment banking firm.

Justice Sonenshine is an effective real property neutral. She is persistent, knowledgeable, and has a common sense approach to mediating real property disputes. As an arbitrator, her command of the process, demonstrated fairness, and knowledge of the law and rules result in appropriate, timely, and well-reasoned awards.


  • ADR
    • Credible in real estate matters, she commands lawyers‘ and litigants’ respect enabling her to effectively and efficiently foster settlement
    • Appreciated for possessing a real world, analytical, and practical understanding of difficult real property issues and the ability to resolve them
    • Handles cases ranging in size from smaller matters to large three-panel commercial arbitrations involving international parties
    • Her intimate knowledge of the appellate process makes her a trusted trial strategy consultant
    • Efficiently administers neutral evaluations, mock trials, appellate review, and mediations and arbitrations for appellate-level matters
  • Legal and Judicial 
    • Authored scores of real property cases on the Court of Appeal
    • One of four original justices appointed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Three, serving 17 years 
    • One of the youngest appointments to the California Superior Court and Court of Appeal
    • Established a successful law practice out of law school utilizing trial, negotiation, and settlement skills
  • Business
    • Held a California Real Estate Broker License
    • After retiring from the bench founded and served as Managing Director of an international investment banking (M&A) firm sold to H&R Block
    • Founded a nationally chartered federal bank later sold to Wells Fargo Bank
    • Formed Sonenshine Enterprises, which invested in a number of women-led companies and served as a trusted advisor to numerous female entrepreneurs

Representative Matters

  • General Real Estate
    • Review and mediation of bifurcated judgment regarding real estate commissions
    • Redevelopment credits dispute between city and shopping center
    • Class Action by homebuyers against real estate developer and its wholly owned escrow company for violations of the Cartwright Act (Bus. & Prof Code section 16720 et seq.) and Civil Code section 2995 prohibiting real estate developers from requiring escrow services by entities in which developers have financial interests (MacManus v. A.E. Realty Partners (1987) 195 CA 3d 1106)
    • Damages against a bank, notary, employer, and surety resulting from plaintiff’s forged signature on note and trust deed (McComber v. Wells (1999) 72 CA 4th 512)
    • Realtor breach of fiduciary duty and loss of realtor license
    • Large commercial landlord tenant development agreements
    • Mediation/Arbitration of rental holdbacks on sale of underlying lease
    • Tax Free exchange; vendor in fact following a tax free exchange can pursue same remedies as a vendor in a two way exchange
  • Zoning, Use Permits, Compensation for Taking, Variances, Condemnation
    • Residential and apartment conditional use permit (Harris v. City of Costa Mesa (1994) 25 CA 4th 963)
    • Variance and compensation for taking (Metropolitan Outdoor Advertising Corporation v. City of Santa Ana (1994) 23 CA 4th 1401)
    • Litigation expenses in condemnation proceedings (Community Redevelopment Agency of Santa Ana v. Matkin (1990) 220 CA 3d 1087)
  • City Liability
    • City immune from liability under Gov. Code. Section 8184 where inspector made a determination after reviewing soils report and conferring with soils engineer (Cancun Homeowners Association v. City of San Juan Capistrano (1989) 215 Cal.App.3d 1352)
  • Rescission, Fraud
    • Arbitration of action by buyer against broker and seller for recession of purchase and sale agreements alleging fraud and deceit, based on Intentional Misrepresentation and Negligent Misrepresentation, Nondisclosure, and/or Concealment and Constructive Fraud Based on Breach of Fiduciary Duty and Breach of Contract
    • Action to rescind loan and damages for misleading promise regarding home loan preapproval
  • Specific Performance
    • Vendors not entitled to compensation for businesses operating losses and loss of income (BD Inns v. Pooley (1990) 218 CA 3d 289)
    • Vendors can maintain specific performance cause of action despite availability of relief for consequential damages
  • Title Insurance
    • Policy did not insure against loss sustained by lender as a result of insurer’s mistaken representation of parcel’s acreage (Golden Security Thrift & Loan v. First American Title Insurance (1997) 53 CA 4th 250)
  • Real Estate Leases
    • Perpetual lease extension renewals exempt from uniform statutory rule against perpetuities (Shaver v. Clanton (1994) 26 CA 4th 568)
    • Lease extension involving town or city subject to a 99-year term (Shaver v. Clanton (1994) 26 CA 4th 568)
    • Cancellation provision and option to extend, forfeiture, and right to fire proceeds (Long Beach Partnership v. Libaw (1999) 70 CA 4th 212)
    • Lessee’s actions before lease expiration are sufficient to exercise option to renew when lease fails to specify how option is to be exercised (ADV Corporation v. Wikman (1986) 178 CA 3d 61)
    • Tenant’s purported lease renewal did not extend original lease period and preclude termination for premises destruction within two years of lease’s term
    • Lease holdbacks and overpayments
    • Determination of a mobile home park lease’s fair market value should be made in accordance with the highest and best use of the land without regard to present lease and including ordinances and statutes which might proscribe or render a change of use of the property financially unfeasible (Humphries Investors v. Walsh (1988) 202 CA 3d 766)
  • Community Associations/Condominium Owners
    • Conflict between Homeowner’s Community Association and CC & Rs (Battram v. Emerald Bay Community Association (1984) 157 CA 3d 1184)
    • Liability of individual condominium owners for injuries sustained in common area (Ruoff v. Harbor Creek Community Association (1992) 10 CA 4th 1624)
  • Stop Notices
    • Stop notices and statute of limitations (Structural Steel Fabricators v. City of Orange (1991) 234 CA 3d 1206)
  • Foreclosure, Deficiency Judgment, Abstract of Judgment, Judgment Creditor
    • Second trust deed holder must give notice of delinquency on first and second trust deeds (Little v. Harbor Pacific Mortgage (1985) 175 CA 3d 717)
    • CCP section 580b applies to standard purchase money transaction. It is inapt where new note is secured by property other than that securing original purchase money note. (Goodyear v. Mack (1984) 159 CA 3d 654)
    • Creditor seeking satisfaction of judgment lien against debtor, real property purchaser, and financial institutions must correctly spell debtor’s name in abstract of judgment. Doctrine of idem sonans (the same sound) is inapt. (Orr v. Byers (1998) 198 CA 3d 666)
    • CCP section 580b protection (deficiency judgment may not be recovered on purchase money obligation) inapt when subordination occurred and was reinstated neither by a renegotiation that resulted in a change in size of the lien holder’s loan or by payment to lien holder as compensation for risk of subordination to a larger construction loan (Ziegler v. Barnes (1988) 200 CA 3d 224)
    • Party owes duties as both real estate broker and foreclosure consultant; plaintiff entitled to actual damages of the difference between what defendants paid for the house at foreclosure sale and property’s market value at that time; award of treble exemplary damages; recession allowed despite plaintiff’s failure to tender default amount because it would have been inequitable to so require (Onofrio v. Rice (1997) 55 CA 4th 413)

Bar Associations, Affiliates and Other Professional and Pro Bono Groups

  • Recipient of the Project Youth OCBF Volunteer Excellence Award, Project Youth Orange County Bar Foundation, 2019
  • Named one of Loyola Law School's 50 Inspirational Alumni, 2014
  • First recipient of Justice David G. Sills Award for Appellate Excellence, Orange County Bar Association Appellate Law Section, 2011
  • Robert Samuel Barnes Award, Orange County Bar Foundation, 2006
  • Marcus Kaugman Jurisprudence Award, Anti-Defamation League, 2004
  • Founder and Chair, Sonenshine Pro Bono Reception, 1995-present
  • Franklin G. West Lifetime Achievement Award, Orange County Bar Association, 1995


  • Member: International Women's Forum/The Trusteeship, The Anti-Defamation League of Orange County and Long Beach's Regional Board
  • Past Member: The Orange County Performing Arts Center Board of Directors
  • Speaker for educational, legal, and business groups, as well as a contributing author on topics relating to law, business, and finance

Family Law

  • Service to Family Law Award, American Bar Association Family Law Section, 1993
  • Family Law Person of the Year, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 1993
  • Jurist of the Year, State Bar of California Family Law Section, 1991


  • Principal in Sonenshine Enterprises since 2004. In that capacity, she has invested in a number of women-led companies, and served as a trusted advisor to numerous female entrepreneurs
  • Co-Founder and Executive Managing Director, EquiCo (subsequently RSM EquiCo after being acquired by H&R Block in 2001), now known as McGladrey Capital Markets, 1999-2004
  • Associate Justice, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Three, 1982-1999
  • Judge, Orange County Superior Court, 1981-1982 (Presiding Judge, Family Law Panel)
  • Private law practice, Newport Beach, 1971-1981
  • J.D., Loyola School of Law, 1970 (St. Thomas More Honor Society)
  • B.A., Economics, University of California, Los Angeles, 1967

Counsel Comments

    • "Sheila Sonenshine is the absolute best settlement officer I have ever seen. She is knowledgeable and always fully prepared. Moreover she is practical and understands the goal of dispute resolution is to get all parties to believe they have made the best overall decision they can make, taking possible outcomes into account." 

      - Appellate Counsel
    • “Justice Sonenshine’s tenacity, business background, and common sense hands-on approach make her stand out among neutrals.” 

      - Legal strategist and former Sr. Vice President and General Counsel of one of the largest private real estate and development companies in the United States
    • "Justice Sonenshine has the experience, objectivity, and common sense to cut to the heart of an employment dispute and get the parties there with her."
    • "She put the lawyers, and the parties, in their place, and with tenacity, unmatched knowledge of the law and a presence that can only be described as breathtaking, gave us hope that we could actually settle a case where the parties could not have been further apart. Without her tireless assistance, exceptional mediation skills and unbridled commitment, there is no way this case could have settled."



Practice Areas

Available nationwide


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