Hon. Ernest H. Goldsmith (Ret.)



Since joining ADR Services, Inc. as a neutral, Judge Goldsmith has served as a mediator, arbitrator, mock trial jurist, mock arbitrator and discovery referee/special master. He has successfully mediated to settlement numerous cases, including: personal injury, employment, real estate transactions, residential and commercial leasing, real estate non-disclosure, landlord-tenant, construction defect, contract, commercial disputes, probate and trust matters, health care, malpractice, insurance coverage and bad faith, consumer and employment class actions. He has utilized his experience as a Law and Motion and trial court judge to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of cases in mediation which has proved highly valuable in assisting litigants toward settlement.

As a Judge of the Superior Court in San Francisco prior to joining ADR Services, Inc., Judge Goldsmith conducted hundreds of judicial settlement conferences in most areas of the law. He gained a reputation as one of the most successful settlement judges on the bench.


As an arbitrator at ADR Services, Inc. Judge Goldsmith has decided complex cases in construction defect, sale of businesses, partnership, probate, real estate, employment and commercial disputes.


Judge Goldsmith is highly experienced in participating as a judge in mock trials and mock arbitrations. These have included a mock trial concerning a $600M contract dispute in the computer industry and a mock arbitration in a $100M real estate development HOA construction defect case. Attorneys have stated that they have found Judge Goldsmith’s analysis of their cases to be invaluable to them and their clients in evaluating their cases.


Utilizing his extensive experience in ruling on discovery matters as the Law and Motion Judge and in a trial court, Judge Goldsmith has been appointed by Superior and Federal courts as a discovery special master/referee in highly complex cases, including those involving computer software and other technology cases.


Judge Goldsmith served as a Judge of The Superior Court in San Francisco for twenty years. Most recently, he served in the Law and Motion Department for over three years, where he decided numerous motions for summary judgment/adjudication, discovery and all pre-trial motions. As a trial judge, he presided over cases in almost every area of the law including: torts, employment, commercial insurance, leasing, and real estate, among others.

In addition, Judge Goldsmith presided over complex environmental and pollution cases. He served as the Court’s CEQA judge, where he decided several of the most important environmental cases in California. These included the Hunters Point Development case, fishing and water rights in the Klamath River tributaries, the Malibu Coast revision project, as well as numerous local development cases.


Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Goldsmith was in civil practice where he specialized in commercial litigation and nonprofit organization law. He represented nonprofit corporations, foundations, and Asian mutual benefit associations.

Judge Goldsmith’s practice was closely involved with the healthcare industry. He represented a full-service hospital, a comprehensive outpatient center, medical practices, as well as senior and assisted living facilities.


  • Stanford University School of Law, LL.B.
  • University of California, Berkeley, M.A. in Political Science
  • University of California, Berkeley, B.A. in Political Science


  • Judicial Advisor to the State Bar (CLA) Litigation Section Executive Committee
  • Trial Judge of the Year, San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association
  • Chair, State Bar Nonprofit Organizations Committee
  • Chair, Revision Committee, Nonprofit Section, California Corporations Code



Judge Goldsmith is a frequent presenter at continuing education seminars and programs for attorneys and judges. Topics have included: evidence, discovery, electronic discovery, nonprofit corporation law, trial practice, motion practice, asbestos and toxic tort litigation, recent developments in California law, CEQA, environmental law, and expert witnesses. He has presented in California and nationally before the following organizations:

  • Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB)
  • California Judges Education and Research (CJER)
  • The Brookings Institution
  • The American Enterprise Institute
  • Thomson West
  • Bar Association of San Francisco
  • Marcus Evans Seminars
  • Harris-Martin Seminars
  • Pincus Seminars
  • The National Business Institute (NBI)
  • The State Bar of California, now CLA


EMPLOYMENT: Judge Goldsmith has successfully mediated dozens of employment cases: wage and hour including overtime, waiting time, meal and rest breaks, failure to furnish accurate wage statements; wrongful termination; sexual harassment; age and gender discrimination; hostile workplace and independent contractor status. Judge Goldsmith has extensive experience with employment class action cases as a Mediator and Trial Judge.

BUSINESS: Mediations include shareholder and partnership disputes, dissolution of professional partnerships, investor and shareholder lawsuits including software and IT companies and startups, real estate investor disputes, business purchases and sales, collection lawsuits. Judge Goldsmith recently settled a lawsuit involving a large international bitcoin trading company.

PERSONAL INJURY AND WRONGFUL DEATH: Successful mediations have included: motor vehicle accident injuries, injury claims against retail, restaurants, commercial buildings, apartment and condominium complexes and municipalities. Settled injury claims arising from large public events. Injuries have included orthopedic, burns, pulmonary, neurological and traumatic brain injuries, chemical exposure. Judge Goldsmith is a recognized authority on toxic tort injuries and litigation and has taught continuing education programs for judges and lawyers, and has presented nationally at the Brookings Institution and other national venues on toxic tort subjects.

REAL ESTATE: Successful mediations have included lawsuits involving: real estate sale nondisclosure lawsuits; investor disputes, commercial and residential leases; commercial lease renewal valuation; purchases and sales of residential and commercial properties; subsidence problems, condominium owner disputes with HOA’s.

CONSTRUCTION: Mediated and arbitrated construction defect cases involving both private and public owners, generals, and subs, in multi-party litigation. Extensive background in construction litigation as a Trial and Law and Motion judge.

Representative Cases

Business & Commercial

  • Debt Collection. Debt collection abuse case resulting in published opinion affirming Judge Goldsmith’s rulings on first impression issues. Collection agency sued under Robbins-Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Act in mistaken identity harassment case. Judge Goldsmith ruled on first impression issues: whether conduct violating the Act is shielded by the litigation privilege; whether the continuing violation doctrine permits recovery under the Act for events that occurred beyond the statute of limitations; and whether a multiplier can be used in calculating attorney fees awarded under the Act. Case is frequently cited for application of the continuing violation doctrine in a wide variety of commercial and other cases. First District no. A12316, A12241.
  • Accounting Malpractice. Judge for all purposes in designated complex action by European bank against consortium of international accounting firms alleging accounting malpractice, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and damages of $120,000,000 arising from large loans to international food processing conglomerate. Alleged reliance on false financial reports and unqualified opinions. Heavily litigated with demurrer, discovery and dispositive motions heard. Settled with guidance from Court.
  • Contract. Trial judge in multi-party jury trial contract case arising from the sale of a restaurant located in large San Francisco financial district office complex. Parties included buyer, seller, business broker, title company and lessor. Issues involved fraud, breach of contract, Bus. Prof. Code Sec. 17200, and breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Contract. Single assignment trial judge in international transaction contract case involving failure of delivery of shipping containers by Chinese manufacturer to domestic purchases. Issues included dispute over escrowed funds held by bank where extent of partial performance in dispute and conflict of laws were at issue. Court mediated settlement.
  • Real Estate Quiet Title Action. Bench trial in quiet title action brought by investment company co-owned by deceased physician and his heirs, the individual plaintiffs. Company purchased a large rental property from Defendant, who married decedent shortly before his death. Defendant claimed the company, with decedent acting on its behalf, had borrowed large sum before his death. Defendant claimed the loan went into default and decedent conveyed company’s interest to her. Company owned by decedent’s heirs claimed ownership of the property and that any loan transaction was unauthorized and that the loan and foreclosure documentation was fraudulent and void. Following a ten day bench trial, the Court found the loan was fraudulently contrived by Defendant and void. Quiet title and damages awarded to plaintiffs.
  • Commercial Anti-Trust. Judge for all purposes in Cartwright Act anti-trust action designated complex. Claim was brought by a hospital against another hospital and healthcare company alleging defendant’s contract with doctors’ organization was illegal exclusive dealing arrangement requiring doctors to admit patients to defendant hospital to exclusion of plaintiff and other hospitals. Decided pre-trial motions including summary judgment based on Cartwright Act and B&P 17200. Case settled prior to trial based on buyout of plaintiff.
  • Maritime. Decided three week court trial brought by oceangoing tugboat company claiming large fuel charges while providing towage for Defendant’s oceangoing barges carrying crude oil up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Defendant barge company contracted to pay for fuel consumed, amounting to thousands of gallons per day plus daily fee. Parties disagreed on amounts of fuel consumed in many tows, where calculation involved numerous transfers of fuel from ship to ship. Court heard ten days of testimony pertaining to documentation, towing distances repair and layover time. Required analysis of hundreds of records, captain’s testimony, and customs and practices in the maritime industry.
  • Trade Secrets. Single assignment judge in major trade secret case involving 23 employees of highly profitable business services department of amajor national bank. Employees resigned and joined competing bank with detailed customer records and contacts. Alleged misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, injunctive relief and related causes of action against defendant
    bank. Extensive discovery and preliminary injunction hearings. Settled after preliminary injunction issued.

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Class Action

  • Class Action. Judge for all purposes in class action bench trial action for damages to four hundred class member tenants of apartment complex arising from extensive exterior renovation, alleging noise pollution, damage to units, negligence, interference with quiet enjoyment. Pre-trial certification, discovery and dispositive motions. The parties settled during trial based on a proposal by the Court.
  • Consumer Class Action. Judge for all purposes in heavily litigated consumer class action alleging home loan company had illegal discount arrangement with title company requiring home purchasers to use designated title company, and that title company had fee arrangements with developer and Freddy Mac, in violation of Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and B&P Sec. 17200, et seq. Issues included res judicata arising from sister Federal action, Proposition 64 regarding actual damages, class certification and motions for summary adjudication and e- discovery disputes. Parties settled after extensive motion practice.
  • Consumer Class Action. Judge for all purposes in consumer class action designated complex alleging overcharging late fees on automobile loans and leases. Judge Goldsmith certified a national class of 830,000 members in 46 states and decided certification, decertification, discovery, summary judgement motions and adjudication of complex conflict of laws issues. Case settled for $105,000,000.


  • Bench trial in construction action by subcontractor against general and bonding company and cross-complaint. Litigated issues of concrete construction performance in large retrofit in Hastings Law School, and recovery on performance bond, recovery on stop notice, claim on release bond, and breach of contract.
  • Subcontractor performed large steel fabrication job on six story parking garage construction job. General contractor claimed construction defects in work by subcontractor and refused payment. Subcontractor sued for payment and damages. Extensive expert witness testimony regarding design and metal fabrication in large structures. Jury verdict.

Elder Abuse

  • Judge Goldsmith has presided over numerous elder abuse cases such as those described below, these have included long cause bench trial probate cases alleging capacity and competency, and bench and jury trials involving financial, psychological, neglect and physical abuse. He also decided numerous dispositive motions in elder abuse cases as law and motion judge.
  • Defendants made fraudulent misrepresentations and used coercive tactics resulting in elder to take out mortgage held by defendants. Resulted in foreclosure and loss of elder’s home. Involved psychological and financial abuse.
  • Case involving caregivers using threats and coercive influence on elder with failing mental acuity to obtain elder’s bank and stock accounts. Psychological and financial abuse.
  • Owner/manager of assisted living facility used threats and physical harm to force elder to deplete her financial assets which were taken by defendants. Psychological, physical and financial abuse.
  • Owner/Managers of skilled nursing facility failed to obtain medical care for elder suffering from severe abdominal obstruction resulting in death. Case of elder neglect among numerous other causes of action.
  • Caregiver of two years used undue influence including withholding care to obtain access to elder’s bank account, and also to change his living trust to change beneficiaries from close relatives in Italy to caregiver. Psychological and financial abuse.
  • Two-month probate trial brought by family members who financed testator’s real estate investments and were named as beneficiaries to part of testators’ estate. When testator was in extremis dying of cancer his recent spouse used psychological abuse and withholding of medical care to cause testator to change his trust/will to name spouse as sole beneficiary. Psychological and physical abuse and undue influence.
  • Family member caregivers administered physical abuse and withheld medical attention. Physical abuse and neglect.

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  • Restaurant workers claimed they were not being paid for overtime or breaks.
  • Employment Class Action. Trial judge in single assignment employment class action brought by large class of security guards alleging meal and rest break violations under FEHA. Decided class certification, extensive discovery and summary adjudication motions. Settled.
  • Wrongful Termination. Trial judge in action by timeshare salesman for wrongful termination, disability discrimination, retaliation, California Medical Leave Act violation, and harassment. Court drafted jury instructions on several causes of action. Affirmed on appeal.
  • Discrimination. Jury trial brought under FEHA for discrimination, harassment, associational discrimination, and under CFRA for disability and retaliation for taking leave. Court decided associational discrimination, associational harassment and retaliation claims motions. Affirmed, No. A122517, A123449.
  • FEHA. Taxi driver alleged hostile work environment under FEHA. After two day bench trial, the Court found that plaintiff was an independent contractor and did not have standing under FEHA because he rented defendant’s taxi on a daily basis.
  • Labor. Three month bench trial labor case brought by Labor Commissioner and fifty sewing factory workers for claims of unpaid wages, overtime, vacation pay, waiting time penalties and under B&P Sec. 17200. State claimed personal liability of principals of bankrupt corporations for wages and penalties under Labor Code and IWC wage order pertaining to garment industry. Court found defendants not personally liable for corporate debts based on California alter ego law which Court applied to labor violations. A first impression decision affirmed in frequently cited published opinion. A113760, A114106
  • Wage & Hour Class Action. Judge for all purposes in wage & hour class action filed against large men’s clothing store chain on behalf of class of store managers, assistant managers, and sales associates alleging failure to pay overtime wages, provide required meal and rest breaks, and failure to meet labor code requirements for recordkeeping. Key issues involved classification of managers as exempt employees. The court heard motions to certify class, decertification, discovery and summary judgement. Court assisted in successful settlement negotiations.
  • Sexual Harassment. Settlement judge in sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and hostile work environment action brought by female against large law firm. Defense claimed termination for economic reasons. Settled in mid six-figure range.
  • Racial Discrimination. Settlement judge in FEHA discrimination action brought by African-American female employed by department store, who was terminated when she was unable to perform job duties. Plaintiff alleged employer refused to employ her in a less demanding position and refused to engage in iterative process. Court mediated settlement based on voluntary retirement and monetary award.
  • Disability Discrimination. Trial judge in action by African-American former policeman injured on job, who resigned to recuperate. Plaintiff sought reinstatement pursuant to Department’s rehire rules and was denied. Alleged medical discrimination and reasonable accommodation retaliation violations under FEHA and FCMLA violation. Jury verdict.
  • Wrongful Termination. As settlement judge, mediated employment action where plaintiff hired as long-term temp claimed damages for early termination without cause. Reached confidential settlement.

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  • Environmental Cap and Trade. Environmental group challenge to the State’s plan for implementation or scoping plan for implementing AB 32, Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 for reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG). Analyzed entire statutory scheme in the act in relation to each provision of the scoping plan. Petition also challenged California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) decision to proceed with a cap and trade program to implement the Act. Court ruled that CARB violated CEQA by not considering alternatives to cap and trade and ordered CARB to cease planning a cap and trade program for reduction of GHG until it had considered and held hearings on alternative reduction methods. State complied with a comprehensive analysis of alternatives and held public hearings. Affirmed in frequently cited published opinion. No. 132165
  • Environmental Cap and Trade. Decided foundational issue in operation of California cap and trade program by determining the criteria by which voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or offset credits termed “additionality” are determined. Ruling that additionality can be determined on an industry-wide basis rather than case by case, decision is a major factor in nationwide GHG allocations market. On appeal.
  • CEQA. CEQA action alleging noise pollution, challenging granting of permit to expand sports bar restaurant with open air area in mixed commercial-residential district. At issue was City’s finding that project was categorically exempt from CEQA. Judge Goldsmith decided the petition applying the substantial evidence standard to determine validity of the categorical exemption and shifting of the burden to Petitioner to prove by substantial evidence the threshold of significance under CEQA which Petitioner was unable to do.
  • CEQA. Decided CEQA action seeking to vacate the City’s approval of a 700 acre 10,000 unit Hunters Point Shipyard-Candlestick Point development plan. Action was based on challenge to the environmental impact report and effect on Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood by failing to adequately describe alternatives, and future impact of transfer of the polluted shipyard from the United States to San Francisco and demolition of Candlestick Park Stadium. Court severed polluted shipyard from the project until remediated under CERCLA and approved remainder of project as compliant under CEQA. Resulted in what is projected to be the largest development project in San Francisco’s history.
  • CEQA. Decided CEQA petition by commercial fisherman’s association and Native American tribes to preserve spawning habitat for endangered Coho Salmon. Petitioners challenged Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFG) permitting program to take water from spawning habitat in the Klamath watershed for agricultural use alleging degraded spawning streambeds and large fish kills. The Court applied CEQA substantial evidence and evidence as a whole standards, finding DFG failed to accurately describe the environmental setting and effects of the program, thus violating legislative intent to preserve endangered species. Writ issued.
  • Water Pollution. Water pollution product liability case against seven manufacturers and distributors of perchlorethylene used for dry cleaning. Municipality entities alleged groundwater pollution of city wells. Judge Goldsmith presided over six month jury trial which concluded with the Court’s finding action was barred by statute of limitations following jury mistrial on that issue. Decided two bench trials involving alleged pollution in redevelopment districts. Court heard testimony from experts in geology, hydrology, chemistry and engineering. Found causation and product identification not proven. Cases on appeal.
  • Proposition 65. Judge for all purposes in heavily litigated Proposition 65 case alleging violation by diesel particulates in school buses owned by nationwide school bus company. Court decided motion for preliminary injunction involving several dozen experts and scientific studies from sources worldwide. Also decided motions regarding complex procedures for testing particulate concentrations. Case settled following motion decisions with stipulated judgment under Court supervision.
  • CEQA. CEQA action brought by citizens’ group against State and technology company to stop storage and seepage of chemical waste threatening groundwater. Extensive discovery and motion practice regarding toxic substances, after which case settled based on cleanup.

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Insurance Bad Faith

  • Bench trial involving breach of contract and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing action arising from insurer’s refusal of tender to defend insured in an action brought by homeowners’ association. Issue was whether insurer’s duty to defend was triggered by dispute over delineation between common areas and plaintiff’s condominium unit. Court held that coverage only extended to threat to plaintiff’s ownership interest and no claim was made against her unit.
  • Trial judge in insurance bad faith jury trial involving disputed valuation of lost business following closure of business after a fire. Court made rulings on qualifications and foundation for expert testimony, and on unfair business practices, equity issues, damages and attorneys’ fees.
  • Defendant real estate developer tendered defense to insurance carrier which accepted under reservation of rights. Carrier hired law firm for coverage representation. Law firm advised carrier to settle certain causes of action and withdraw representation on others as uncovered. Plaintiff sued carrier for bad faith and law firm for fraud. Court decided motions regarding coverage, duty, negligence, breach of contract and “defense of counsel” defense.


  • Settled a mold infestation matter where residents became ill.

Minor's Compromise

  • Judge Goldsmith has heard dozens of petitions for settlement of minors claims, all or almost all following personal injury. One particular instance Judge Goldsmith remembers well was the approval of a petition on behalf of a teenager hit by a police car who suffered traumatic brain injury, which settled for about $4M.

Personal Injury

  • Settled PI case where plaintiff was a 79-year-old woman with severe osteoporosis who suffered a fall on a slightly broken concrete walkway, in her homeowner’s development. Suffered severe compound fracture of arm with massive bleeding and long recuperation. Defendants claimed P. should have used a walker as she sometimes did, and that defect was minor. Settled for six figures.
  • Settled brain injury case where police car hit teenager in crosswalk. Disputed red light for police car. Conflicting expert reports on extent of neurological injury. Seven figure settlement. (This was while on the bench)
  • Settled soft tissue injury resulting from rear end collision where plaintiff was a trainer in fitness center he owned. Dispute over conflicting records related to lost income during recuperation period and experts’ opinions regarding inability to work.
  • Settled case where young woman plaintiff suffered severe fall causing disfiguring facial injuries allegedly due to inadequate lighting in fitness club where plaintiff stepped on a moving treadmill she could not see was moving.
  • Settlement conference judge in wrongful death case involving physician falling to his death down an elevator shaft. Settled for $900,000 economic damages.
  • Settled PI case where plaintiff was a 79 year old woman with severe osteoporosis who suffered a fall on a slightly broken concrete walkway, in her homeowners development. Suffered severe compound fracture of arm with massive bleeding and long recuperation. Defendants claimed P. should have used a walker as she sometimes did, and that defect was minor. Settled for six figures.
  • Settled brain injury case where police car hit teenager in crosswalk. Disputed red light for police car. Conflicting expert reports on extent of neurological injury. Seven figure settlement. (This was while on the bench)
  • Settled soft tissue injury resulting from rear end collision where plaintiff was a trainer in fitness center he owned. Dispute over conflicting records related to lost income during recuperation period and experts opinions regarding inability to work.
  • Settled case where young woman plaintiff suffered severe fall causing disfiguring facial injuries allegedly due to inadequate lighting in fitness club where plaintiff stepped on a moving treadmill she could not see was moving.
  • Settlement conference judge in wrongful death case involving physician falling to his death down an elevator shaft. Settled for $900,000 economic damages. (Kliener v Perkins No. 494872)

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Probate, Estates & Trusts

  • Thirty day bench trial involving complex inter-family trusts and wills dispute. Plaintiff family members alleged highly valued properties to have been purchased by decedent, who amassed huge real estate holdings, with plaintiffs’ funds over thirty year period. Defendant, decedent’s widow, was sole beneficiary. Probate Referee appointed to trace funds and property purchases during thirty year period. Court rejected resulting trust theory finding plaintiffs could not overcome presumption against resulting trusts. Court found plaintiffs were entitled to ownership interests in properties based on a loan relationship arising from decedent’s use of plaintiff’s funds.

Real Estate

  • Settled a case involving disputed partnership status of an assisted living facility, where manager claimed ownership interest.
  • Commercial Lease Dispute. Trial judge in twelve day bench trial involving complex commercial lease dispute over exercise of right of first refusal. Defendant hotel in prime San Francisco location leased four floors from adjacent commercial building. Lease had potential of running another seventy years and included lessor’s right of first refusal to purchase the leasehold interest or the lessee’s hotel. Hotel received buyout offer from third party. Lessor exercised right with deviation in terms from third party offer raising issue if or to what extent does deviation render the right ineffective. Found that significant deviations from third party offer negated right of first refusal.
  • Contract Dispute. Multi-layer contract dispute over terms and price between plaintiff owners of multi-unit residential building and defendant contractor involving remodeling and rebuilding. Jury decided contract cause of action and court ruling on UCL and B&P 17200 causes were appealed and affirmed. First District No. A114208
  • Commercial Lease Dispute. Bench trial in commercial lease dispute concerning fair market value for lease renewal valuation in ground lease with ninety-five year potential term on prime San Francisco Union Square retail property. Declaratory relief sought Court to interpret lease to determine whether appraisal of property for rent adjustment should include tenant-built improvements. Court considered extrinsic evidence, expert testimony on ground lease economics, customs and practices, and conduct of parties.


“Judge Goldsmith was outstanding. He settled a case that I had little confidence would settle . He’s my first choice of settlement judges and arbitrators as he’s always prepared and works very hard to resolve disputes. He’s also very practical and cuts right to the heart of the matter and gives a fair evaluation of the merits of the case. He was totally prepared for our matter”