Hon. James C. Emerson (Ret.)


Judge James C. Emerson (Ret.) served 20 years on the Santa Clara County Superior Courts. Well known for his thoughtfulness, judicial demeanor, and commitment to resolving complex disputes. Judge Emerson was recognized by the Trial Lawyers in 2010 as the Judge of the Year and by the Town of Los Gatos and the City of San Jose in 2011 for his commitment to justice and the voluntary resolution of cases.

As a mediator, Judge Emerson is known for his thorough preparation and ability to listen attentively to diverse views and legal positions. His unique background in government and school law cases has proved a valuable asset to the distinguished panel of ADR neutrals.

ADR Experience

As a full time neutral since 2010, Judge Emerson has conducted mediations and arbitrations with emphasis in the following areas: personal injury including coverage issues and brain injury cases, employment, school law and Government issues including First Amendment, executive compensation, construction, Brown Act and zoning regulations, real estate, banking, finance, and foreclosure law. He has conducted settlement conferences in hundreds of matters including serious personal injury cases involving the State of California and its obligation to construct and maintain safe and well-designed roadways.

Judicial Experience

1993 – 2010  Judge of the Superior Court, Santa Clara County

Civil Team Leader: Law and Motion, Settlement Conferences, and Case Management, 2008 and 2009

Civil Trials, 2007 – 2008

Supervising Criminal Judge, 2005 – 2006

1990-1993 Judge of the Municipal Court, San Jose

Civil Supervisor, November 1992 to March 1993

Criminal assignments, January 1990 to November 1992

Legal Employment

1985-1990 Deputy County Counsel

Represented school districts, Registrar of Voters, the Sheriff, and the Department of Corrections

1974-1985 Private practice

Emphasizing personal injury, estates and small business formation

ADR Training

2009 & 1998 Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University

1998 40 hours overview of Alternative Dispute Resolution

2009 20 hours overview of techniques of ADR


  • 1970 BA, University of California, Berkeley
  • 1973 JD, University of Santa Clara


  • Judge of the Year, 2010 Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association
  • Honored by city of San Jose for volunteering to Police misconduct matters

Community, Teaching and Lecturing

  • Teaching Arbitration/Mediation at Lincoln Law School
  • Santa Clara County Superior Court ADR Program
  • Santa Clara University Board of Visitors, 1991 to present
  • NBI Judges Conference, Presenter, 2009
  • AOC Supervising Judges Institute, Facilitator 2007 , 2008, and 2009
  • Adjunct professor Lincoln Law School, Teaching negotiation, 2010 to present

Representative Cases


  • Mediated Breach of Contract for security services at a hospital.
  • Breach of Contract in purchase of a large carpet business. Case resolved.
  • Mediated a Breach of Contract in purchase of a grocery store including competition clause.
  • Breach of Contract brought by an inventor against current patent user.  Case resolved.
  • Failure to pay worker’s compensation premiums after audit.  Resolved two cases.
  • Mediated three matters where goods were received but not paid for.
  • A Web site was invaded by pop-up ads. Case resolved.
  • Mediated where partner was deceased and business valuation was disputed.
  • Real Estate loan between family members. Case resolved.
  • Family Real Estate disputes. Resolved three cases.
  • Mediated a partnership dispute involving multiple finance and tax issues.
  • Mediated a buy-out of a partner in family mortuary business.
  • Mediated a case of division of trust estate property. 
  • Partnership/business valuation resulting in a buyout- Resolved two cases.

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  • Plaintiff brought this action for wages and penalties against the medical corporation. The corporation counter-sued for dept repayment.
  • Plaintiff was alleged to have defamed and discriminated against his colleague. Plaintiff denied this conduct and claimed his colleague was the actor and the plaintiff was the victim. No lawsuit was filed. The case settled for counseling with each professor admitting responsibility.
  • Presided over sexual harassment/discrimination at a car dealership.
  • Arbitrated a sexual harassment involving spy camera in the employee restroom.
  • Mediated a FEHA claim by a law firm employee.
  • Sexual harassment by an employee at an off-site social gathering. Case resolved.
  • Mediated a FEHA case involving a Bank.
  • Mediated a race discrimination and failure to accommodate involving a City.
  • Sexual harassment case.  Case resolved.
  • Claim by a community college chancellor for back wages and severance damages. Case resolved.
  • Employment case at a temporary help agency. Case resolved.
  • Mediated a sexual harassment involving a CEO.

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Personal Injury

  • VTA bus versus pedestrian. Head injuries affecting gait and balance. No surgery. Plaintiff had preexisting developmental disability.
  • Premises liability.  Resolved four cases.
  • Arbitrated chemical scalp burn at hair salon.
  • Presided in case where Plaintiff has lost sense of taste and smell.
  • Mediated uninsured motorist case.
  • Mediated brain injury to minor.
  • A deck collapse. Case resolved.
  • Soft tissue cervical strain in a rear-end auto collision. Resolved two cases.
  • T-Intersection collision resulting in bicyclist death.  Partially Resolved.
  • Mediated an auto case where defense involved an allegation of “unavoidable accident”.
  • Mediated a death case with motorcyclist and a semi- truck/trailer.
  • Brain injury at a racket ball court. Case Resolved.
  • Bicycle-auto collision. Case Resolved.
  • Mediated bicycle-auto death case.
  • Construction site injury caused by an explosion in a utility trench. Case resolved.
  • Soft tissue auto accident which aggravated a prior injury. Case resolved.
  • Mediated a premises liability at a hotel.  Plaintiff was a disabled person.
  • Mediated a collision by a drunk driver.
  • Mediated a facial scaring case involving a bicyclist and an auto.
  • School bus broadsided an auto. Case resolved.
  • Mediated a catastrophic failure of front fork on new bicycle.
  • Sexual molestation. Case resolved.
  • Mediated an injury on school grounds caused by an aluminum baseball bat.
  • Mediated a cross walk injury to Plaintiff caused by a utility truck.
  • Defamation case caused by a posting on the internet. Case resolved.

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Professional Liability

  • Acted as evaluator in Medical Malpractice matters involving liposuction and premature discharge resulting in death.
  • Arbitrated case involving failure by Hospital to properly diagnose and treat Asthma causing death.
  • Medical Malpractice involving orthopedic surgery.  MICRA limits were applied. Case resolved.
  • Mediated appraiser liability case involving FDIC. 
  • Arbitrated two legal fee disputes.
  • Mediated proof of liability involving a negligently drafted investment prospectus.
  • Arbitrated legal fee dispute between attorneys.
  • Mediated Professional negligence/fraud matter involving short sale and foreclosure issues.

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Real Estate

  • Plaintiff sued for unpaid commission on real estate transaction. Property was not sold - plaintiff demanded $100,000; defendant offered $0.
  • Settled a real estate fraud case where the plaintiff sued the defendant for restitution.
  • Plaintiff sued for unpaid commission on real estate transaction. Property was not sold - plaintiff demanded $100,000; defendant offered $0.
  • Mediated two matters involving Title Company omission of DOT upon refinancing of property.
  • Arbitrated and Mediated Breach of Personal Guarantee in three matters involving Banks.
  • Unnecessary/unapproved build out to leased premises. Case resolved.
  • Landslide case involving water district and neighboring properties. Case resolved.
  • Neighbor dispute regarding tree and concrete damage. Case resolved.
  • Homeowners Association dispute involving unapproved modification. Case resolved.
  • Easement dispute. Case Resolved.
  • Mediated two matters involving landslide/water diversion case between neighbors.
  • Mediated Mechanics  Lien involving issuing of subordination.
  • Water diversion and chemical spraying on a vineyard. Case resolved.
  • Mediated a large change order in the building of a church.
  • Mediated a fraud by a Title Insurance Company which Plaintiff was serving a sentence for murder.
  • Property purchased was not allowed to be used for intended purpose by City.  Case resolved.
  • Breach of Contract for use of Convention Center.  Case resolved.
  • Lease dispute which was unfavorable to landlord.  Case resolved.
  • Mediated a Tenant who was precluded from using Leasehold for intended purpose.
  • Mediated a dispute between contractor and land owners involving cost of repair.
  • Arbitrated a dispute over reimbursement of real estate deposit.
  • Presided over case involving mold in residential dwelling.
  • Construction defect which delayed opening of business.  Case resolved.
  • Presided over large construction defect case.
  • Acted as a Court Appointed Special Master in large downtown redevelopment project.
  • Mediated where Plaintiff was denied a short sale by a bank that later foreclosed.
  • Purchase Contract dispute involving septic tank failure. Case resolved.
  • Mediated a fence line case with elder abuse issues.
  • Arbitrated a real estate sales contract which requested specific performances.
  • Arbitrated a real estate Breach of Contract regarding household ambiguity.

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Articles / Publications