Hon. James Lambden (Ret.)


Justice James Lambden brings to his ADR practice nearly four decades of experience as a trial lawyer, trial court judge and Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal.

Business Trial Lawyer

During his 14 years as a trial lawyer he represented clients throughout the state in cases involving construction, commercial contracts, torts, secured transactions, employment, insurance and real estate. His clients ranged from wind farm start-ups to international corporations such as Merck and Co.

Trial Judge and Civil Procedure expert

His 7 years as a trial judge included more than 4 years presiding over a master civil law and motion calendar averaging 25 to 30 hearings each day. During this assignment he also briefed the presiding judge weekly regarding the settlement prospects of the cases coming up for trial.

In his other civil assignments he managed the Fast Track calendar and successfully settled dozens of cases scheduled for jury trials; and he tried to verdict many others. He was named Civil Trial Judge of the Year by the Alameda/Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association before being elevated to the Court of Appeal in 1996.

Appellate Justice, Author and Educator

Justice Lambden authored over 900 opinions during his 17 years on the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco; and he joined in hundreds of other published opinions authored by his colleagues. More than 100 of his opinions resolved important civil issues; and several of those resulted in new law, either by subsequent legislation or as affirmed precedents.

Justice Lambden has been a national leader in developing strategies to improve access to justice. Since 1997 he has been first a founding member, then chairman and now an ex officio member of the California Commission on Access to Justice. He served on the Board of the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness. For 9 years he chaired the Access and Fairness Advisory Committee of the California Judicial Council (the constitutional governing body of the California court system). And in 2013 he received the Benjamin Aranda Award in recognition of his life-long work to remove barriers to access to justice.

Throughout his career Justice Lambden has been an author and frequent lecturer on civil procedure and substantive civil law. He has taught on behalf of the California Judges’ Association, the State Bar, CEB (Continuing Education of the Bar) and CJER (California Judicial Education and Research). As an appellate justice he regularly lectured at the Bernard Witkin Judicial College and conducted orientations for new judges on procedural and substantive topics.

He co-authored California Civil Practice, “Procedure” Thomson-West; he holds a lifetime community college teaching credential in law; and he has taught legal writing and trial practice classes at several law schools for many years. However, he is reluctant to reveal in which year he composed a question for the California Bar Exam.

Judicial Experience

  • Seven years as a trial judge on the Superior Court of Alameda County
  • Including four years presiding over the Law and Motion Master Calendar
  • Named ACCTLA “Civil Trial Judge of the Year” before being appointed tothe First District Court of Appeal in 1996
  • Authored 900 appellate opinions, including more than 100 civil precedents

Professional Experience

  • Fourteen years as a trial lawyer with Fitzgerald, Abbott & Beardsley, Oakland
  • Practiced statewide in disputes involving construction, commercial contracts, torts, employment and real estate

Professional Teaching/Education

  • Author and frequent lecturer on civil procedure and substantive law topics for the California Judges Association, the State Bar, CEB (Continuing Education of the Bar, UC Berkeley), and CJER (California Judicial Education and Research)
  • Co-Author, California Civil Practice: Procedure, Thomson-West
  • Contributor, California Appellate Practice, Matthew Bender
  • Witkin Lecturer, Bernard Witkin Judicial College, Berkeley
  • State Bar of California Litigation Section programs, including: “EffectiveSummary Judgment Motion Practice: A Judicial Perspective”
  • Co-author, “Stop Shooting Down Tort Liability, It is Time to Resuscitate theAbnormally Dangerous Activity Doctrine Against Handgun Manufacturers.” Stanford Law and Policy Review, Vol. 12:143 (2001)
  • Instructor in Law, Peralta Community College District

Professional Affiliations

  • Member, California Society of Healthcare Attorneys (CSHA)
  • Member, California Dispute Resolution Council (CDRC)
  • Member, Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL)
  • Chairman, Access and Fairness Committee, 2003-2012 (Principal standing committee of the Judicial Council)
  • Chairman, California Commission on Access to Justice (State Bar)
  • National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness, Board Member
  • California Tribal/State Court Forum, Founding Member
  • California Judges Association, Board Member
  • Alameda County Bar Association, Member Board of Directors
  • Executive Chairman, Alameda County Bar Association Foundation
  • Bay Area Center for Law & the Deaf (BACLAD), Board of Directors
  • Founding Member: Deaf Counseling Advocacy & Referral Agency
  • Hastings Alumni Association, University of California Alumni Association

Professional Honors & Awards

  • Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association (ACCTLA) Civil Trial Judge of the Year
  • Honored by Resolution of the Alameda County Bar Foundation for Public Service, 2000
  • Bench Bar Coalition “Jurist of the Year” Award for work with the Legislature to increase funding for legal services, 2007
  • “Opening Doors to Justice” Award, One Justice, 2008
  • Benjamin Aranda Award for improving access to justice, 2013

Education, Service & Bar Admission

  • United States Naval Reserve, 1968-1971
  • University of California, Berkeley, B.A., Political Science, magna cum laude
  • Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco, J.D.

Representative Cases


  • Administrative Hearing Officer in administrative appeals of disputed municipal tax exceeding $100 million.
  • Consultation at every stage of appeal of judgment in excess of $1 billion, including the decision to file appeal, drafting of briefs and mock arguments in cases and settings.
  • Consultation and ultimate mediation and settlement of issues of duty and foreseeability in appeal of wrongful death regarding verdict that included large punitive damages and issues of first impression.
  • Consulted on briefs in appeal and petition for review of major public policy case involving institutional liability for failure to prevent criminal assault in public setting.
  • Consultation in multi-jurisdiction appeals regarding disputed ownership of $700 million cosmetic company.
  • Consultation regarding briefs and mock argument in appeal of $120 million verdict, including punitive damages, resulting from interlocking commercial real estate transactions.
  • Consultation on appeal of jurisdiction in divorce proceedings involving multi-state marital estate valued at $650 million.
  • Consulted on briefs and writ petition after decision in multi-billion dollar case against international drug manufacturer.
  • Conducted mock argument in appeal of summary adjudication decision in cross-state securities fraud case involving nationally listed stock.
  • Mock argument in appeal of portion of multi-district disputes involving several technology patents and awards by an International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Panel.
  • Consultation including mediations in numerous personal injury and commercial appeals.
  • An appeal of $7 million whistleblower/wrongful termination verdict against municipal agency.
  • Mediation of appeal of $1.4 million verdict based on gender discrimination, sexual harassment and constructive termination.
  • Mediation of appeal of summary judgment in catastrophic injury case involving statutory immunity defense and $7 million in damages.
  • First impression appeal of verdict involving interaction of Insurance Code sections 2750.5, 3351 and 11590.

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Class Actions

  • Multi-week mediation of class action against national hotel chain based on extensive accessibility problems in several locations.
  • Multi-week mediation of class action involving accessibility claims against national operator of vending machines.
  • Numerous class actions and PAGA claims based on wage and hour violations in settings including retail sales, automotive repair and sales, outside sales, restaurants, and personal services.
  • Class action against national chain of fitness clubs regarding access for disabled patrons.

Commercial/Consumer Contracts

  • Breach of stock option agreement in connection with $65 million merger/acquisition arrangement was settled by transfer of portion of proceeds of sale of stock to charitable foundation.
  • Multiple disputes involving contracts and settlement agreements between a successful rock band, former managers and former attorneys.
  • Breach of contract in a leveraged lease of oil field testing equipment. Lessee asserted fraud and violations of securities regulations after the $1 million value of the equipment was reduced by market surplus.
  • Disputed nonjudicial foreclosure proceeding was resolved after allegations including breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, wrongful foreclosure, breach of contract, fraud, violation of Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, financial elder abuse.
  • Car purchaser sued car dealer, alleging violation of Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), and other claims, arising from dealer's financing car purchase at higher rate than that which was approved by bank, and then splitting difference with bank. A related case certified a class to pursue claims for violating Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and and for statutory attorney fees.
  • Culturally diverse dispute involving sale of business exporting fresh produce internationally. Issues included covenant not to compete, trade secrets, interference with business relationships, and copyright infringement.
  • Arbitration of an action against CEO for misappropriation of assets and bank fraud, in addition to counterclaims for wrongful termination and labor code violations.
  • Arbitration of claims by national manufacturer against long-term independent sales representatives for breach of fiduciary duties, covenant not to compete, trade secrets, and unfair competition.
  • Dispute involving breach of long-term lease and option to purchase large, high-value commercial properties.
  • Dissolution of partnership in dental practice.
  • Real property dispute over fraudulent intra-family transfer of property to avoid completion of contract for sale of commercial real estate.
  • Dispute over commission claims by dueling brokers involved in lease of large office building.
  • Consultation with shareholders regarding potential claims against other shareholders involved in multi-state mega-construction projects, including tie-breaking vote by interim pro-tem board member.
  • Arbitration of breach of contract claims in excess of $13 million regarding solar energy projects.
  • Commercial lease of medical cannabis dispensary involving option to purchase real property.
  • Mediation of breach of lease dispute where city revoked permit manufacturing facility for edible cannabis products.
  • Partnership dissolution dispute of a practice involving 11 doctors.
  • Partnership dissolution of dental practice involving large inventory of appliances and extensive receivables.

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Construction & Land Use

  • Construction contract dispute involving $100 million in design defect and professional negligence claims relating to construction of operating rooms at University Hospital was successfully mediated prior to scheduled seven-week trial.
  • Disputed claims regarding Construction of corporate headquarters resulted in 185 day arbitration involving allegations of changes of scope of work, suspension of performance and consolidation hundreds of subcontractor claims.
  • Construction dispute involving custom computer room in top secret Navy facility. Contractor refused to pay for specially manufactured access panels required by design.
  • Construction defect dispute between county and property owner over design of a split level building and whether sprinkler system was adequate under state building code for a "high-rise" structure.
  • Insured general contractor’s successor-in-interest disputed liability insurer's refusal to pay expenses incurred in resolving a third-party portion of multi-party construction litigation.
  • School district brought action against construction management contractors and project architects, relating to cost overruns for school project, and architects brought cross-complaint against managers for indemnification and negligence.
  • School district brought action against construction management contractors and project architects relating to cost overruns for school project. Architects brought cross-complaint against managers for indemnification and negligence.
  • Claims arising from major landscape, remodel, and seismic upgrade of hillside homes.
  • Claims between owners, contractors and professionals arising from oceanfront construction that impinged on protected land.
  • Multi-million dollar claims that tree removal on upslope lot resulted in destabilized hillside threatening destruction of downslope home.
  • Claimed abandonment of driveway easement in the elaborate garden between two mansions.
  • Nuisance and easement suit brought by HOA against last family farm in a rapidly gentrifying area.

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Disability & Discrimination

  • Discrimination claims against school district based on failure to adequately respond to bullying and name-calling of minority students.
  • Class action against national hotel chain based on extensive accessibility problems in numerous locations.
  • Class action involving accessibility claims against national operator of vending machines.
  • Wrongful termination claims of 55-year-old long-term employee who was fired from a bank and replaced by a younger employee based on technical violation of rules not regularly enforced.
  • Numerous claims for wrongful termination based on hostile work environment, whistleblowing, gender, and sexual orientation.
  • Access class action brought by disabled students against community college district.
  • Class action claims by blind restaurant patrons against restaurant chain.
  • Mediation of ADA claims against fitness/health clubs, retail stores, and restaurants.
  • ADA claims involving national hotel reservation system and local hotels with inadequate accessible rooms.
  • Due process appeals of administrative decisions regarding alleged failure of school districts to provide Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to qualified students.

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  • Physician contested termination and contended that the administrative peer review hearing process by hospital administration resulting in findings that he should no longer treat patients violated his due process rights and was not supported by substantial evidence.
  • Physician challenged hospital board's decision to condition her reappointment to medical staff on having a consultant available prior to admitting any patient.
  • Class action brought by newspaper carriers and distributors against newspaper entities for wage and hour violations, alleging they were required to work as independent contractors even though they were actually employees
  • A class action brought against employer, alleging nonpayment of overtime wages, meal and rest period violations, and other violations.
  • Casino dealers class action against casino claimed violations of the Labor Code and conversion arising out of the collection and distribution of dealers’ tip money.
  • Former employee sued his employer, his employer's subsidiary, and a plant manager, claiming unlawful termination in violation of public policy, defamation and misrepresentation concerning other employment, and his wife sued the same
  • Hundreds of retirement plan members sought inclusion of cash premiums they contended should not have been excluded from calculation of their final compensation.
  • Numerous cases and claims based on statutory wage and hour violations in settings including retail sales, automotive repair and sales, outside sales, restaurants, janitorial services, and healthcare services.
  • Claims against major retailer for wrongful termination based on plaintiff’s alleged theft of personal property owned by another employee who aspired to replace plaintiff.
  • Wrongful termination claim brought by a 55-year-old long-term employee who was fired and replaced by a younger employee based on technical violation of rules not regularly enforced.
  • Wrongful termination claims by utility worker based on termination after alerting employer of unsafe practices.
  • Arbitration of hostile workplace cases and constructive termination, including alleged mistreatment because of race, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexual orientation.

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Health Care

  • Mediations and arbitrations of multiple Payer/Provider disputes involving shifting entities and affiliations, capitation agreements, HIPAA violations pertaining to electronically stored information, and breaches of contract.
  • Arbitration of commercial disputes involving affiliated unions and healthcare workers at multiple hospitals statewide.
  • Mediation and arbitration of fee-for-service disputes under contracts for reimbursement for services provided to patients who are members of health plans.
  • Arbitration of multi-million-dollar claims by national provider of services based on refusal of health plans to reimburse for certain categories of test procedures involving thousands of patients.
  • Claims based on wrongful termination, retaliation, and whistleblower statutes by doctors employed by hospitals.

Personal Injury/Torts

  • Dispute in which sovereign design immunity was asserted as defense to action against transportation district to recover compensatory damages for catastrophic injuries sustained when their vehicle was struck head-on by a vehicle which crossed into oncoming traffic.
  • A design defect dispute involving defense of sovereign immunity from liability for injuries sustained in a catastrophic head-on collision after median strip berm failed to deflect crossover of opposing traffic.
  • Products liability action against an equipment manufacturer for damages suffered by husband as a result of toxic exposure during his years of employment.
  • Foreseeability was at issue when security company and stadium contributed to compensation for injuries suffered by young women injured when a group of men illegally entered through exit doors of stadium.
  • Action was brought against engineering and contracting firm to recover damages for wrongful death of steel worker.

Probate, Estate & Trusts

  • Claims by community charities and foundations were mediated after bankruptcy and disbanding of community symphony orchestra. Distribution of endowment funds by a bankrupt charitable organization remains unusual and this case was one of the first to compromise claims in recognition of the original donors' intentions. Charities received $300,000 to support a youth orchestra and education program.
  • Will contest by residual beneficiaries of earlier will after decedent's gardener procured new will shortly before death.
  • Interlocking estates of deceased spouses included such extensive real estate holdings and confusing conveyances that the estates remained open for years until the various claims were settled.
  • Disputes over a large medical office placed in receivership at the request of creditor banks, and involving hundreds of unsecured creditors and accounts receivable, as well as insurance fraud investigations by state and federal authorities.
  • An action against the administrator of estate of a deceased former partner for breach of partnership dissolution agreement and rescission of the dissolution agreement.
  • Probate contested over the question of whether domestic partner could claim an omitted spouse’s interest in deceased partner’s estate and whether their prior domestic partnership agreement remained valid after same-sex marriage was permitted.
  • Following dissolution of marriage by English court, former husband sued wife and her employer for civil partition of pension and savings plans accounts held in wife’s name.
  • The validity of a premarital agreement was at issue when it was signed without benefit of independent counsel.
  • Dissolution of law practice after deaths and retirements of principals involving interlocking trusts, confidential records, employees, and multiple family members.
  • Numerous mediations involving probate disputes with cross-cultural aspects and often involving interpreters.
  • Multi-week mediation of will contest involving disparate family members and assets in excess of $100 million located on three continents.
  • Court appointed discovery referee in $50 million estate dispute involving allegations of destruction of evidence.
  • Surcharge petition by siblings against trustee over mismanagement of a variety of commercial properties in several states.
  • Dispute over management of cattle ranch by sibling trustee and efforts to purchase shares by other sibling beneficiaries.
  • Numerous disputes involving allegations of self-dealing and misappropriation by family members managing estate assets.

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Product Liability

  • Dispute in which sovereign design immunity was asserted as defense to action against transportation district to recover compensatory damages for catastrophic injuries sustained when their vehicle was struck head-on by a vehicle which crossed into oncoming traffic.
  • A design defect dispute involving defense of sovereign immunity from liability for injuries sustained in a catastrophic head-on collision after median strip berm failed to deflect crossover of opposing traffic.
  • Breach of contact and product liability claims arising from manufacture of trailer built to haul heavy, oversize loads.
  • Fraud, product liability and breach of contract dispute over installation of engine in specialized tractor-trailer.
  • Design defect case involving wind turbine generator arose after changed market and weather conditions reduced energy income. Owners sought damages and rescission.

Trade Secrets/IP

  • Resolved dispute seeking excess of $1,000,000 damages for misappropriation of trade secrets by former employees who had signed non-disclosure agreements before establishing a competing business using coating formulas and customer lists claimed to be proprietary.
  • Dispute involving enforcement of licensing of intellectual property (including proprietary software and marketing plan) resolved by an accounting.
  • Resolved several cases seeking permanent injunctive relief and damages against stock brokers who were alleged to have breached express and implied confidentiality agreements and fiduciary duties by leaving their firms for new employment using purloined trade secrets.
  • Disputes over IP, confidential information and documents taken or disclosed by employees leaving employment, including: a case involving wind turbine control software, a case involving ownership of documents removed from firm by terminated lawyer and several cases involving customer lists.