Hon. Francisco F. Firmat (Ret.)


The Honorable Francisco F. Firmat brings a wealth of experience in helping parties settle their differences at mediation. His 27-year courtroom experience includes long-term assignments in civil, family law and complex litigation panels, with hundreds of jury trials and thousands of bench trials. He has completed over 6,000 settlement conferences or mediations. He is fluent in Spanish and before his judicial career was an attorney and a court-certified Spanish interpreter.

Driven by faith and service, Judge Firmat is a natural peacemaker with exceptional mediation skills. In addition to his lengthy judicial experience, Judge Firmat has received training in mediation through Pepperdine’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution in 1996, 2005 and 2008, and has attended further programs since his retirement from the bench in 2013.

Hon. Francisco Firmat has been honored by numerous legal and community organizations. In recognition of his extensive efforts to improve the family law court experience for the Orange County community, Judge Firmat was awarded the 2008 Benjamin Aranda III Access to Justice Award co-sponsored by the State Bar of California, Judicial Council of California and the California Judges Association.

Areas of Expertise

  • Business & Commercial Contract
  • Complex Litigation
  • Employment
  • Family Law
  • Real Estate
  • Homeowners Association
  • Personal Injury
  • Professional Malpractice

Judicial Experience (1985-2013)

  • Civil – 15 years
  • Family Law (Supervising Judge for 5.5 years) – 7.5 years
  • Complex Litigation – 2.5 years

Litigation Experience

  • Sole Practitioner (Fullerton, California) (1976-1985)


  • Western State College of Law, Juris Doctorate (1976)
  • University of Southern California, Graduate Studies (1973)
  • California State University Los Angeles, Bachelor’s Degree (1972)

Professional Recognition

  • ADL Marcus Kaufman Jurisprudence Award (2016)
  • Western State College of Law Lifetime Achievement Award (2015)
  • Orange County Bar Association, Franklin G. West Award (2013)
  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Distinguished Jurist Award (2009)
  • Orange County Hispanic Bar Association, Jurist of the Year (2009)
  • State Bar of California, Judicial Council of California, and California Judges Association, Benjamin Aranda Access to Justice Award (The “Aranda” is the most prestigious Award given jointly by the Judicial Council, the State Bar, and the California Judges Association.) (2008)
  • Orange County Women Lawyers’ Association, Judge of the Year (2007)
  • American Board of Trial Advocates – Orange County Chapter, Civility Award (2002)
  • Consumer Attorneys of California, Judge of the Year (2001)
  • Orange County Bar Association – Business Litigation Section, Judge of the Year (1996)
  • Orange County Trial Lawyers Association, Judge of the Year (1996)
  • Orange County Hispanic Bar Association, Judge of the Year (1994)
  • Orange County Bar Association & Orange County Bar Foundation, Harmon G. Scoville Award (1992)

Community Service Recognition

  • Kids First, Recognition (2013)
  • Loyola Institute for Spirituality, Hearts on Fire Award (2004)
  • Thomas More Society – OC Chapter, Thomas More Award (2001)

Speaking & Instruction

  • During his judicial career, Judge Firmat was a lecturer at different times for The Rutter Group, Orange County Bar Association, Consumer Attorneys of California, Center for Judicial Education and Research, American Board of Trial Advocates, Continuing Education of the Bar, Orange County Hispanic Bar Association and others.
  • Western State College of Law (Assistant Professor of Trial Practice, 1994-2012)


  • Active with Daniel’s Inn of Orange County
  • Teaches workshops on prayer and contemplation
  • Fluent in Spanish

Video Introduction to Judge Firmat

On January 17, 2013, Hon. Francisco Firmat received the Orange County Bar Association’s Franklin G. West Award; the OCBA’s highest honor. For a glimpse into the character, values and judicial philosophy of this jurist, please click here to see the video of the introduction and acceptance remarks from the award ceremony.

Representative Cases

Insurance dispute

  • Four parties were insurer, insured, insurance broker and wholesale insurance broker. Litigation over insurance policy clause and whether it was ambiguous, unconscionable, explained or concealed.

Real Estate

  • Plaintiff sued husband for breach of contract over a real estate partnership. Husband and wife divorce, each responsible for half the assets and debts. Plaintiff gets judgment against husband but husband goes to bankruptcy court. Wife dies and her probate estate is pursued for payment of husband’s judgment to collect half of the debt. Case has complex civil, family law, bankruptcy and probate issues.


“Judge Firmat is not only a fantastic mediator, he is a true gentleman and a pleasure to work with. ADR is lucky to have him.”

“We enjoyed working with Judge Firmat and the office staff was great.”

Judge Firmat had clearly read both sides’ confidential mediation briefs and understood the legal arguments. He spent the first few minutes summarizing each side’s arguments and pointing out strengths and weaknesses. I am convinced the few moments spent doing this really helped settle the case. The two hour conference saved my client tens of thousands of dollars.”

Judge Firmat worked his magic and was able to get this settled with a highly emotional plaintiff.”

Judge Firmat is the only reason this matter was able to be resolved. He is an exceptional mediator/judge.

Judge Firmat did an excellent job and facilitated settlement in a case I would not have imagined would settle. Very professional.”

“Judge Firmat is different from the rest, he’s generous with his time. He’ll call you to give you a primer of the case [in order to] hit the ground running. There were lots of follow up calls. He’s really committed to getting the case resolved.”

Judge Firmat has a really nice touch as a mediator. He puts people at ease with his approach. I think he also wants to make sure that people are very clear-eyed about their case and the other side’s case. He knows how juries react, and he puts it all out there so people can make informed choices.

Judge Firmat skillfully moved what would have been a very long, expensive trial to a creative solution, in a situation where one of the parties was within weeks of dying. Each party achieved their objectives and the children’s best interests were also served.”

No one has more integrity or compassion than does Judge Francisco Firmat.”