Stephen Sulmeyer

Stephen H. Sulmeyer, J.D., Ph.D.

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator, Referee/Special Master, Hearing Officer

Case Manager
Lily Kaufman
T: 415-774-2656
F: 415-982-5287
2 Embarcadero Center, Suite 1500, San Francisco, CA 94111


Stephen H. Sulmeyer, J.D., Ph.D., joined JAMS in 2019 as a full-time neutral after 20 years as a mediator in private practice. With a dual background as a commercial and intellectual property litigator as well as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Sulmeyer specializes in the settlement of disputes involving professional and intimate relationships (such as family law, probate and estate planning, elder law, closely-held and family businesses, workplace/employment, sexual harassment and partnership disputes), disputes involving high levels of conflict and emotion (such as professional liability, personal injury, partnership dissolutions, and family law), as well as commercial and business disputes.  As a mediator he brings a high level of sensitivity and empathic skills that are particularly useful in cases involving party vulnerability (such as sexual harassment, discrimination and personal injury matters).  His skill at working with the human issues that drive disputes has earned him a reputation for resolving the most challenging high-conflict and high-emotion cases. 

Dr. Sulmeyer’s approach to dispute resolution focuses on understanding as thoroughly as possible the parties’ material and non-material interests, as well as their financial and legal positions—hence his commitment to thorough and diligent pre-mediation preparation. His ability to listen empathically, think analytically and communicate clearly allows parties and counsel to feel genuinely heard and understood, and ripens negotiations for creative and pragmatic problem-solving. His combination of tenacity, legal acumen and amiable practicality contributes to his high rate of settlement.

In addition to his mediation and arbitration practices, Dr. Sulmeyer is highly sought after as a speaker and trainer of dispute resolution, nationally and internationally. He is also the founder and former president of Integrative Mediation Bay Area, an organization that brings together psychotherapist, financial industry and attorney co-mediators in family law and other cases. Mr. Sulmeyer is the co-founder (with Judge Verna Adams) of the Marin County Superior Court’s Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference program, in which mental health professionals and lawyers trained in dispute resolution team up to assist judges to resolve the most intractable child custody, probate and other civil cases. 

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • 12 years of private practice litigation experience covering a wide variety of intellectual property, entertainment and general business matters
  • 20 years practicing as a psychotherapist, during which time he honed his skills in empathic listening and understanding human behavior and motivations
  • Highly experienced in resolving matters involving current and/or future relationships among the parties (e.g., employment, divorce/separation, partnerships, closely-held businesses, family businesses); high-conflict, difficult personalities; mental health issues; and substance abuse
  • Co-founded the Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference program at the Marin County Superior Court; in its 12-year history, the program has maintained a greater than 80% settlement rate while substantially reducing the number of return visits by litigating parents

Representative Matters

Business and Commercial

  • Breach of distribution agreement and alleged sale of counterfeit goods
  • Disputes involving false advertising, misleading labeling, unfair competition, trade libel, interference with contract or prospective economic advantage and other business torts
  • Commercial lease disputes and breach of contract cases,
  • Cases involving claims of bad faith denial of insurance coverage, advertising injury disputes, and other insurance related matters
  • Disputes involving partnerships, family businesses, and closely-held companies


  • Cases involving claims of wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile work environment, and breach of employment and independent contractor contracts
  • Wage and hour disputes and other Labor Code violations
  • Disability, failure to accommodate
  • PAGA (Private Attorneys General Act) and class actions
  • ERISA matters
  • Industries: small and medium-sized business, tech, medical, restaurants, manufacturing, professional services


  • Disputes involving right of publicity
  • Defamation claims involving celebrities
  • Cases involving breach of songwriting contracts and cross-claims for rescission and restitution of copyrights
  • Cases of musical copyright infringement raising issues of protectability of style


  • Disputes between trustees and beneficiaries involving allegations of trustee malfeasance and other misconduct
  • Extensive experience with cases involving opposed sibling factions, some involving mental illness, childhood rivalries and/or substance abuse
  • Cases involving ongoing family businesses and complicated real estate holdings

Family Law

  • Mediated hundreds of divorce, separation and custody cases of all kinds, many extremely high conflict
  • Parenting plans involving challenging issues such as unusual and complex custody schedules, relocation, domestic violence, mental health issues, and drug, alcohol, sexual, and emotional abuse
  • Interviewed children to bring their voices into child-centered mediations
  • Very high net worth individuals in cases involving estates valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, including complex characterization, valuation and division issues involving stock options, RSUs, public and private retirement benefits, small businesses and professional practices
  • Post-decree disputes involving adjustments to support and custody arrangements
  • International/cross-border, including international custody
  • Cross-cultural/multi-ethnic couples
  • Same-sex and never-married couples

Intellectual Property

  • Trademark, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition/ Lanham Act § 43(a) false advertising cases
  • Patent infringement involving high tech and non-high tech products, software, and processes 
  • Copyright infringement cases involving computer software, musical compositions and recordings, marketing materials, among many others  
  • Piracy cases involving such things as designer clothing, musical recordings, and music-related artwork via illegal postings on the web and on social media platforms

Personal Injury

  • Media and internet defamation cases, including online impersonation and posting of false sexually explicit material online
  • Wrongful death
  • Automobile-related and non-preempted workplace injuries
  • Attorney and physician malpractice
Elder Law
  • Cases involving disputes between siblings or sibling factions relating to the care of an elderly parent, sometimes involving dementia
  • Access to and exclusion from an elder
  • Elder financial abuse
  • Conservatorships
Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS.

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Founder and President, Integrative Mediation Bay Area, 2008–2018
  • Chair, ADR Section, Marin County Bar Association, 2005
  • Member, Section of Dispute Resolution, American Bar Association, 2013-present
  • Member, ADR Section, Mediation Division, Bar Association of San Francisco, 2002-present
  • Member, Association for Conflict Resolution, 2005-present
  • Member, Mediation Society, 2012-present

ADR Panels

  • Mediation Panel, Marin and Alameda County Superior Courts
  • Mediation Panel, United States District Court for the Northern District of California
  • Mediation Panel, California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District
Selected Speaking Engagement
  • Panelist, "Beyond the Barriers: Working With Non-Material Interests," Practica Collaborativa, Italy, June 2022
  • Panelist, “Reflecting on the Emotional and Psychological Dimensions of ADR,” Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution, The Hawai'i State Judiciary, August 2022
Selected Publications
  • Co-Author (With Hon. Lynn Duryee), “Managing the High-Conflict Litigant,” California Courts Review, Fall 2008
  • Co-Author (With Hon. Verna Adams and Hon. Beverly Wood), “The Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference: A Grass Roots Alternative for Resolving High-Conflict Parenting Disputes in Lean Times,” Family Court Review, October 2015

Other Professional Activities

  • Judge Pro Tem, Small Claims Division, Marin County Superior Court, 2004–2005
  • Adjunct Professor, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 2001–2003
  • Founder and Settlement Panelist, Interdisciplinary Settlement Conference Program, Marin County Superior Court, 2008–present
  • Mediation Offices of Stephen H. Sulmeyer, J.D., Ph.D., 2001–2019
  • Mediator, Northern California Mediation Center, 2002–2018
  • Law Offices of Stephen H. Sulmeyer, 1993–1998
  • Attorney; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; 1989–1990
  • Attorney, Graham & James, 1983–1984
  • Ph.D., Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 2001
  • J.D., Stanford Law School, 1983
  • B.A., With Distinction, History, Stanford University, 1980

Counsel Comments

    • “I thought you did an excellent job keeping everyone on track, and listening to us.  You would think that listening is “table stakes” to be a mediator, but I have unfortunately run across many that are not as attuned as you are.  Thank you for your assistance in getting us to a resolution.”

      – San Francisco Attorney

    • “Thank you for really understanding both parties wanted to resolve this and had to really step up to get this done which wasn’t possible without your assistance.  If anyone I know asks for a recommendation, I will definitely be using your name.” 

      – New York Attorney
    • “Thank you for speaking with me, explaining the process and offering solace just in your way of being.” 

      – Party in a Family Law Case
    • “You are amazing at what you do.” 

      – Party in a Family Law Case
    • “Thank you so much for your magic, empathy, gentle redirection and wisdom throughout the mediation process.  Now that I am on the other side, I can look back with clarity and realize how grateful I am to have worked with you.” 

      – Party in a Family Law Case
    • “It was an amazing journey and your guidance, patience, and wisdom were exceptional.”  

      – Party in a Family Law Case
    • “Your process, approach and personal demeanor enabled my wife and me to maintain our amicable separation and transition to divorce.  I can’t thank you enough for your patience and effort to reinforce our solid family platform that will enable us to continue to be a happy, unified family.” 

      – Party in a Family Law Case
    • “[Dr. Sulmeyer and Judge Taylor] settled a case that I don’t think anyone thought would settle. My client and I are very appreciative.”

      – Bay Area Estate Attorney



Practice Areas

  • Arbitration
  • Business & Commercial
  • Employment Law
  • Entertainment & Sports
  • Estates/Probate/Trusts
  • Family Law
  • Higher Education & Title IX
  • Insurance
  • Intellectual Property
  • Personal Injury/Torts
  • Professional Liability
Available nationwide


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