Hon. Franklin D. Elia (Ret.)


Hon. Franklin D. Elia is a retired Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, where he was the longest serving Justice in the Court’s history. His service as a judicial officer spans 39 years, including 34 years for the Court of Appeal and 5 years for the Santa Clara County Superior and Municipal Courts. Justice Elia has sat in every level of the California judiciary, including the California Supreme Court by assignment of the Chief Justice.

Justice Elia began his legal career in 1975 as a Deputy Attorney General in the Office of the California Attorney General. He represented the People of the State of California in hundreds of criminal prosecutions and appeals, in addition to representing the Attorney General in civil litigation. ln 1980, Justice Elia became the Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of Palo Alto, where he represented the city and its various departments in civil litigation. He was honored by the Mayor and the City Council by a resolution of commendation for his service in defending the city with distinction and for his outstanding public service to the community.

In 1983, at the age of 33, Justice Elia was appointed to the Santa Clara County Municipal Court, where he served in the court’s civil division and as Supervising Judge of the criminal division. He received an award for outstanding service as a municipal court judge by the judges and commissioners of the Santa Clara County Judicial District. In 1986, he was elevated to the Santa Clara County Superior Court, where he served in the criminal, family law, juvenile and civil divisions. He was recognized for his outstanding service as a juvenile court judge by the Santa Clara County Juvenile Justice Commission, and for his “dedicated leadership and pursuit of excellence in family court” by the Family Law Section of the Santa Clara County Bar Association.

In 1988, Justice Elia was appointed to serve as an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District. During his tenure, he participated in 11,930 appellate decisions and authored 3,793 opinions, including 330 published opinions. He served on the Judicial Council’s Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Committee and the Standing Subcommittee on Appellate Courts. In 2015, he was voted Justice of the Year for Judicial Excellence by the Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association.

Justice Elia has served as an adjunct professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law and a member of the law school’s Appellate Advisory Committee. He was active in the Trial Advocacy Program at Stanford Law School and the University of San Francisco School of Law, teaching trial techniques and advocacy from discovery to jury selection to verdict. His involvement in legal education has also included the Traynor Moot Court Competition at the University of California Berkeley and UC Hastings College of the Law.

Justice Elia enjoys helping local high schools in their moot court programs, is an avid polo fan, having given up active participation in the game in recent years, and enjoys opera at the Met in New York as well as the San Francisco Opera, in addition to the symphony and local theater.


  • Employment / Discrimination
  • Business / Contracts
  • Technology / Intellectual Property
  • Personal Injury
  • Corporate Law
  • Product Liability
  • Family Law
  • Elder Law


Associate Justice, Sixth Appellate District, 1988-2022

  • Authored 3,793 appellate decisions in every area of law, including 330 published opinions
  • Participated in 11,930 appellate decisions
  • Served on Judicial Council’s Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Committee
  • Member of Standing Subcommittee on Appellate Courts
  • Voted Justice of the Year (2015) by the Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association

Judge of the Superior Court, 1986-1988

  • Assignments included civil, family court, criminal and juvenile

Judge of the Municipal Court, 1983-1986

  • Supervising Judge of criminal division, pretrials, trials, law and motion, and settlement conference calendar


Senior Assistant City Attorney in charge of litigation, 1980-1983

  • Extensive civil trial and settlement experience in representing the various City of Palo Alto Agencies and departments in Iitigated matters

Deputy Attorney General, 1975-1980

  • Represented the People in criminal appeals and civil litigation on behalf of the State of California


    J.D., 1975
    B.A. in Political Science, 1972


  • American Bar Association
    Dispute Resolution Section
  • California Judges Association
  • International Bar Association, London
    Arbitration Committee
  • Santa Clara County Bar Association
    Alternative Dispute Resolution Section
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers

Representative Cases

Alternative Dispute Resolution

  • Mediator entered judgment on oral settlement agreement. Issue was whether mediator had the power to do so under the statute.
  • Action was dismissed as time barred. Issue was whether the limitations period was rolled while the case was in arbitration.
  • Nursing home resident sued nursing home for elder abuse. Issue was whether HCPOA gave resident’s daughter authority to agree to arbitration.
  • Homeowner prevailed in an arbitration against contractor. When homeowner petitioned to confirm the award, the trial court deleted the attorney’s fees awarded to homeowner by the arbitrator. Issue was whether the fees award was a proper subject of judicial review.
  • Tenants brought action under residential lease. Issue was whether arbitration provision was unconscionable.
  • Arbitrator ordered reinstatement of employee who had made threat of violence. Issue was whether arbitration award violated public policy.
  • Student sued teacher and private school. Petition to compel arbitration denied. Issue was whether arbitration provision was unconscionable.
  • Petition to compel arbitration of FEHA and Title VII action denied. Issue was whether a knowing waiver of the right to sue was required to validate arbitration agreement.
  • Manufacturer sued developer for breach of noncompetition clause. Arbitrator issued a permanent injunction. Issue concerned whether it was for the court or for the arbitrator to consider modifications to the injunction.

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Business / Contracts

  • Homeowner’s association settled with developer, who had cross-complained against subcontractor for indemnity. Jury verdict on cross-complaint for developer. Issue was whether subcontractor had duty to defend and whether contractor’s lack of license precluded recovery of defense costs.
  • Homeowner’s association sued homeowner. Issue was whether preliminary injunction was an abuse of discretion.
  • Manufacturer sued supplier for breach of warranty. Supplier prevailed. Issues concerned third party infringement claims and attorney’s fees under contractual fee clause.
  • Contractor sued homeowner. Issues were whether there was substantial evidence that contractor performed and whether final payment was a progress payment.
  • Manufacturer sued supplier for fraud and unfair competition. Issue was whether manufacturer had adequately stated claims.
  • Property owner sued manufacturer of roof shingles for breach of warranty. Issue was whether roof shingles were a consumer product.
  • Buyer’s real estate agent sued buyer for her commission. Issue was whether buyer was liable for commission where buyer entered into purchase agreement but then failed to complete the transaction without good cause.
  • One company sued another company for breach of a joint venture agreement. Issue was whether the parties had reached an agreement on the essential terms.
  • Action between two joint venturers. Issue concerned the valuation date for buyout.
  • City settled claim and then sought defense costs under indemnity agreement. Issue was whether it was required to tender the defense in order to be entitled to those costs.

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Corporate Law

  • Shareholder brought breach of fiduciary duty action against corporation and its directors in connection with approval of merger. Issue concerned the validity of the forum selection clause in the corporate bylaws.
  • Shareholder derivative action. Issue was whether action was pleaded with sufficient particularity.
  • Supplier sued corporations and an individual for contract breach and misrepresentation. On appeal from summary judgment for individual, issues concerned alter ego liability of individual for corporate actions.
  • Former minority shareholders and employees sued former majority shareholders, officers and directors in connection with a merger alleging breach of fiduciary duty. Issue was whether action was barred by a statute limiting judicial remedies for dissenting shareholders.
  • Shareholder derivative action. Issue was whether holder of unexercised options had standing to bring such an action.
  • Minority shareholders brought derivative and individual actions against majority shareholders and directors. Issue concerned which limitations periods applied.

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  • Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) action. Issues concerned application of burden shifting.
  • Hostile work environment action. Issue was whether there was a triable issue concerning workplace harassment based on ethnicity.
  • FEHA race discrimination action. Issue concerned whether plaintiff had to prove that persons of a different race received the employment terms he sought.
  • FEHA action based on weight discrimination. Issues included whether the evidence showed that the employer considered the employee to be handicapped based on her weight and whether jury instructions were prejudicial with respect to the employer’s mixed motives.
  • Employee sued university for wrongful termination. Issues concerned whether employee had adequately alleged a termination in violation of public policy.
  • Employee sued for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy and breach of implied contract. Issues concerned whether these claims were supported by allegations/evidence and the calculation of damages.
  • Wrongful termination action. Issues were whether parole evidence was admissible to establish existence of implied contract and whether there was sufficient evidence of breach.
  • Malpractice action. Issues concerned the limitations period and whether expert testimony was needed to establish breach.

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Family Law

  • Dissolution. Issue was whether there was a change in circumstances sufficient to support modification of spousal support.
  • Sanction imposed against wife. Issues on appeal were whether sanctions order was reasonable and whether appeal was frivolous.
  • Wife sought attorney’s fees pendente lite. Issue was whether fees were precluded by MSA’s attorney’s fees provision.
  • Child support action. Issue was whether agreement to submit future child support disputes to arbitration was void as contrary to public policy.

Personal Injury

  • Malpractice action. Issues concerned whether defense had established that plaintiff could not prove the favorable termination and probable cause elements.
  • Biker brought action against bike manufacturer. Issue concerned forum non convenience.
  • Sexual abuse action. Issue concerned sanctions imposed due to discovery dispute.
  • Student sued teacher after student was injured on a field trip. Issue was whether field trip immunity applied.
  • Elder abuse action. Issue concerned the statute of limitations where action was based on conviction for felony elder abuse.
  • Injured tree worker brought action against homeowner. Issue was whether the peculiar risk doctrine applied.
  • Property owners sued tire manufacturer after manufacturer’s dumping of hazardous materials contaminated their water supply. Issues concerned whether owners could recover emotional distress damages for their fear of cancer and the costs of future medical monitoring.
  • Action against newspaper for libel. Issue was whether there was sufficient evidence of actual malice.

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Technology / Intellectual Property

  • Action between two tech companies for trade secret violations. Issues concerned the measure of damages, the admissibility of evidence, and the denial of an injunction.
  • Corporation sued another corporation for conversion and misappropriation of trade secrets. Issues were whether there was evidence of misappropriation and whether unclean hands was a defense to conversion.
  • Company sued competitor for misappropriation of trade secrets. Issue was whether information had independent economic value from not being generally known and whether company had made reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy.
  • One tech company sued another alleging breach of a nondisclosure agreement and misappropriation of trade secrets. Issue was whether the jury’s verdict was supported by substantial evidence of misappropriation and damages.
  • Marketing company sued patentee for unfair competition. Issue was whether the action was subject to exclusive federal jurisdicaon because it arose under federal patent law.