Hon. Steven K. Austin (Ret.) joined ADR Services, Inc. in 2022 after a distinguished 23 years of judicial service as a Judge of the Superior Court for the County of Contra Costa.
Judge Austin was appointed to the bench by former Governor Pete Wilson in 1998. He served primarily in the Civil Department, with additional assignments in Family Law and Criminal Trials. For 13 years, Judge Austin managed a busy Civil Direct assignment caseload, where he was responsible for all case management, law and motion, discovery, settlement conferences, and trials. He became widely renowned for proactively and successfully settling his cases, conducting close to 1,000 settlement conferences over the course of his judicial career.
In addition, Judge Austin was deeply involved in Court leadership and worked tirelessly to promote better access to the court system for the underserved. He served six years as Civil Supervising Judge, five years as Supervising Judge of the Pittsburgh Branch, and served as a member of the Court’s Executive Committee for more than a decade. From 2013 to 2017, he served as the Court’s Assistant Presiding Judge and Presiding Judge. He was also an elected member of the Executive Committee of the Statewide Presiding Judges Advisory Committee and helped launch Community Homeless Court in 2008.
Judge Austin has been well recognized by the legal community for being a hardworking, and evenhanded judge with excellent legal acumen. He is a thoughtful jurist who appreciates the complexities and subtleties of each case before him and views everyone as a person rather than a problem, adding a humanizing element to each matter he handles. In 2022, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Contra Costa County Bar Association, and he has been honored as Trial Judge of the Year by the San Francisco Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and twice by the Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association (ACCTLA).
Prior to his judicial career, Judge Austin was in private practice for 17 years specializing in personal injury, civil rights, insurance coverage and construction defect litigation. Judge Austin earned a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and a J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law.
AREAS OF EXPERTISE
- Personal Injury
- Construction Defect/Landslide
- Property & Neighbor Disputes
- Medical Malpractice
- Elder Abuse
Superior Court of California, County of Contra Costa 1998-2021
Judge of the Superior Court
- Presiding Judge and Assistant Presiding Judge, 2013-2017.
- Previously served as Supervising Judge of the Civil Department.
- Member of the Court’s Executive Committee for more than a decade.
- Presided primarily in the Civil Department, with other assignments in Family Law and Criminal Trials.
- For 13 years, managed a busy Civil Direct assignment, handling all case management, law and motion, discovery, settlement conferences, and trials.
- Conducted close to 1,000 settlement conferences.
Buresh, Kaplan, Jang, Feller & Austin 1985-1998
Buresh, Kaplan, Jang, Feller & Austin
- Worked as an Associate and later became a Member and Partner.
- Litigation practice specializing in Insurance Defense, Construction Defect, Earth Movement and Insurance Coverage.
Cole & Scott 1985-1998
- Litigation practice specializing in plaintiff-side Personal Injury and Civil Rights.
HONORS AND AWARDS
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Contra Costa County Bar Association, 2022
- Trial Judge of the Year, American Board of Trial Advocates, San Francisco, 2021
- Contra Costa Alumnus of the Year, UC Hastings College of the Law, 2016
- Trial Judge of the Year, Alameda/Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association, 2014
- Pro Bono Judge of the Year, Contra Costa County Bar Association, 2005
- Trial Judge of the Year, Alameda/Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association, 2004
- Juris Doctor, UC Hastings College of the Law, 1981
- Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles, 1978
- California Access to Justice Commission, 2004-2011. Served as Chair of the Commission 2007-2009. Ex Officio member of the Commission until 2022 and Chair of the Language Access Subcommittee.
- Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER). Chair of the Fairness Education Committee, 2007-2009.
- Judicial Council of California. Chair of the Court Interpreters Advisory Panel, 2009-2015. Access and Fairness Advisory Committee, 2002-2008.
- Member of the Statewide Language Access Planning and Implementation Committees that expanded court interpreter and language services to Civil and Family Law cases.
- Selected as member of the California delegation to the National Judicial Conference on Self-Represented Litigation at Harvard Law School in 2007. Presented as part of plenary panel.
- Chair of three Statewide Court Conferences attended by hundreds of judges and court managers. Conference on Race and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts 2005, Conference on Language Access to the Courts 2006, and the Women of Color in the Courts Conference 2007.
- Designed and conducted the Contra Costa Community Homeless Court, 2007-2021. Oversaw monthly court hearings conducted at local shelters to resolve old infractions for people who were homeless and worked through treatment, job training and counseling to improve their condition.
- Robert G. McGrath Inn of Court.
- Board Member and Chair of Disability Rights California (formerly Protection and Advocacy, Inc.), 1992-1998.
- California State Mental Health Planning Council, 1996-1998.
TEACHING / SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
Judge Austin frequently served as faculty at education programs for judges, court staff and attorneys, speaking on such topics as General Civil Practice to E-Discovery and the use of CCP 638 and 639 references. He is committed to promoting civility and professionalism in the practice of law and has presented on that subject to judicial and attorney audiences on many occasions.