Hon. Leslie G. Landau (Ret.)


Hon. Leslie G. Landau (Ret.) joined ADR Services, Inc. in 2023 after 20 years of distinguished service as a Judge of the Superior Court for the County of Contra Costa.

After graduating from Cornell Law School in 1983 and clerking for Judge William E. Doyle in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Judge Landau joined the litigation practice at McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen in San Francisco. She developed a specialty in appeals, argued cases for clients in appellate courts throughout the country, and was national appellate counsel for several automobile manufacturers. She became a partner in 1990, served as Managing Partner of the San Francisco office, and chaired the Appellate Group (both for the McCutchen firm and the successor merged firm, Bingham McCutchen LLP). Her appellate practice required her to quickly master legal issues and complex factual matters across a broad range of substantive areas, including product liability, federal securities law, federal preemption and other constitutional issues. She was elected a member of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers in 2000.

Judge Landau was appointed to the Contra Costa Superior Court bench by Governor Gray Davis in 2003. She sat in multiple assignments during her 20-year judicial career. Although a civil attorney by training and experience, in her early years Judge Landau served on the criminal side of the bench, mastering criminal law and procedure to handle high volume calendars, decide legal and evidentiary motions, and preside over hundreds of jury trials. In 2015, Judge Landau moved to the civil side of the Court, where she sat in juvenile and family law assignments. During her two tours in the Family Division, she presided over thousands of contested and complex family law matters – settlement conferences, short-cause hearings, and long-cause trials — involving every conceivable issue arising in family law. She became well-versed in the nuances of issues including child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, marital dissolution, division of property, business valuation, complex accounting, move-aways, and separate property tracing disputes. Judge Landau served as the Supervising Judge of the Family Division of the Court, working closely with the Bar to help shepherd the Court’s move to electronic filing, adopt hybrid appearance technology and rules, and assure access to justice as the Court managed and emerged from the COVID crisis.

Judge Landau brought her appellate expertise to the Superior Court, serving as a longtime member of the Court’s Appellate Division, including several stints as its Presiding Judge. She authored hundreds of Appellate Division opinions, on issues arising out of criminal cases, limited civil matters and writs. A collaborative colleague and exceptional writer, Judge Landau was often tapped by other judicial officers to work through complex legal issues and review and revise draft opinions.

Judge Landau has been recognized by the legal community for being hardworking, a deep legal thinker, a quick study, human and fair. She is a thoughtful and creative jurist, as good with people as she is with complex and subtle legal issues. Her ability to see and connect with the people behind the disputes make her an effective mediator and communicator. Her clear writing makes her decisions understandable and compelling. She anticipates issues, particularly in complex custody and business disputes, assisting parties in managing potential pitfalls and crafting decisions that account for them. In 2023, she was honored as Trial Judge of the Year by the Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association (ACCTLA).


  • Appellate
  • Business & Contract
  • Civil Rights
  • Constitutional Issues
  • Elder Abuse
  • Family Law
  • Landlord/Tenant
  • Personal Injury
  • Product Liability


Character, Valuation and Division of Property: accounting for separate property contributions to community property and community contributions to separate property; tracing for separate property reimbursement claims; business valuation; valuation and division of unusual and illiquid assets; accounting for non-salary compensation, including performance bonuses, commissions, stock distribution and stock options; deferred compensation and post-separation buyout of vacation accrued during marriage; reimbursement and post-separation accounting, claims of fiduciary breach.

Child Custody and Visitation: developmentally appropriate parenting plans; high conflict parents, parental substance abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental alienation and estrangement; children with physical and mental health challenges, learning differences, refuse/resist dynamics, school refusal, gender dysphoria; school choice and home schooling; “move away” disputes.

Spousal and Child Support: establishment, modification, and enforcement of support orders; income available for support, including self-employment income, income tax write offs and depreciation, cash wages, investment and rental income, family gifts, and loans, disability, vocational evaluations, and imputed income; support for adult children under Family Code section 3910.

Contested Separation Date: divergent separation date claims; equivocal communication about separation.

Post-Judgment Issues: Modification of permanent spousal support, omitted assets, fraud claims.


Judge of the Superior Court, County of Contra Costa    2003-2023
Supervising Judge of Family Court, 2022-2023.
Family Law, 2015-2018, 2022-2023.
Appellate Division, 2011-2023.
Juvenile Justice and Juvenile Dependency, 2018-2021.
Member of Executive Committee, 2013-2015, 2022-2023.
Supervising Judge of Richmond Branch, 2013-2015.
Criminal Law, 2003-2015.


Partner, McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen    1984-2003
Managing Partner of San Francisco office, 2002-2003. Chair of Appellate Group, 2000-2003.
Involved in the creation and management of Women’s Mentoring Program for women associates. Partner since 1990.

University of California, Hastings College of the Law    1987, 1991
Adjunct Associate Professor of Remedies, 1987. Lecturer, Moot Court Program, 1991.

Law Clerk to the Honorable William E. Doyle    1983-1984
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Denver, Colorado.


J.D., cum laude, Cornell Law School, Ithaca, NY    1983
Article Editor, Cornell Law Review. Student Counsel, Cornell Legal Aid Clinic. Director, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury.

B.A. magna cum laude, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT    1980
Majors in Psychology and French Literature. Received Limbach Prize for Outstanding Community Service for founding Rape Crisis Center serving central Connecticut.


  • Lawyer Representative to the USDC Northern District Judicial Conference
  • Co-Chair of the Northern District Judicial Conference
  • Elected Member of California Academy of Appellate Lawyers
  • Member of Board of Directors and Chair of Amicus Committee, California Women Lawyers
  • Member of Board of Directors, San Francisco Women Lawyers Alliance
  • Member of Litigation Committee, Equal Rights Advocates

Representative Cases

Family Law:

  • Settled dozens of disputes over spousal support, including temporary orders, permanent orders and post-judgment modification of support.
  • Settled hotly contested property division involving a high net worth couple, family and separate property businesses, and third-party interests in some of the disputed assets.
  • Handled trial of financial disputes in marital dissolution, including tracing of separate property through multiple accounts (including a HELOC-linked financial instrument) and the use of comingled funds to pay down of interest-only mortgage on under-water property; breach of fiduciary duty in loan made to family member; Epstein credits and Watts charges; and separate property reimbursement claims based on community use of carried tax loss after sale of separate property stock.
  • Handled trial to determine marital share of commercial building owned jointly with third party, and division of marital share between spouses in light of a series of transmutations, each claimed by one or the other party to be breach fiduciary duty.
  • Handled case addressing enforceability of Islamic marital contract as pre-marital agreement, including the effect of illegible terms written in Farsi and document's compliance with statute of frauds.
  • Handled multiple cases involving breach of fiduciary duty, including: spouse secretly trading stocks on margin; spouse dissipating community assets by gambling; spouse loaning money to a sibling with no documentation or repayment terms; and spouse diverting community assets to account held with parents in Asia.
  • Handled case involving whether adult child is “incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means" and subject to a support order under family code Section 3910.
  • Determined or settled hundreds of marital dissolution cases involving complex property and financial issues, including:
    ◦ Character, Value and Division of Property
    ◦ Division of Community Interest In Property Owned Jointly With Third Parties
    ◦ Accounting For Separate Property Contributions To Community Property and Community Contributions To Separate Property
    ◦ Tracing For Separate Property Reimbursement Claims
    ◦ Valuation of Businesses and Illiquid Assets
    ◦ Division of Post-Separation Payments, Deferred Compensation and Buyout of Vacation Accrued During Marriage
    ◦ Permanent Spousal Support
    ◦ Income Available For Support
    ◦ Non-Salary Compensation, Including Performance Bonuses, Commissions, Stock Distribution and Options, In-Kind Benefits
    ◦ Self-Employment Income, Income Tax Write offs and Depreciation, Cash Wages
    ◦ Investment and Rental Income, Family Gifts, and Loans
    ◦ Disability, Vocational Evaluations, and Imputed Income
    ◦ Disputes Over Date of Separation
    ◦ Claims of Fiduciary Breach
    ◦ Reimbursement and Post-Separation Accounting
    ◦ Post-Judgment Matters, Including Modification of Permanent Support, Omitted Assets, Requests To Vacate Judgment On Grounds of Fraud Or Mistake.
  • Determined Or Settled Hundreds of Child Custody and Visitation Matters Presenting Complex Problems, Including:
    ◦ High Conflict Parents
    ◦ Parental Substance Abuse
    ◦ Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence
    ◦ Parental Alienation and Estrangement
    ◦ Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Plans
    ◦ Parenting Plans and Legal Custody For Children With Physical and Mental Health Challenges, Learning Differences, Refuse/Resist Dynamics, School Refusal
    ◦ Gender Dysphoria In Children/Adolescents and Parental Disagreement About Appropriate Medical Care
    ◦ School Choice and Homeschooling
    ◦ “Move Away” Disputes
    ◦ Support For Adult Children Under Family Code Section 3910

view all


  • As a member of Appellate Division, decided numerous appeals and writ matters relating to civil actions, including contract disputes and residential and commercial unlawful detainer actions.
  • Lengthy bench trial involving trust beneficiary's challenge to trustee's disposition of assets, including issues relating to claims of fiduciary breach and then-applicable safe harbor law.
  • As an attorney, handled appeals for 19 years in a broad range of substantive areas, including:
    ◦ National counsel for automobile manufacturers addressing whether federal law preempts common-law claims that a vehicle is defective for having one federally authorized restraint system instead of another. (The issue was resolved in Geier v. American Honda Motor Co. 529 U.S. 861 (2000).)
    ◦ Product liability cases involving the legal scope and factual limits of design defect and failure-to-warn claims; jury instructions; evidentiary errors; comparative fault and contributory negligence; and the effect of consumer modifications to product design.
    ◦ Appeals relating to legal and factual support for damages, including causation of medical condition, medical diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and ability to work.
    ◦ Appeals related to availability and amount of punitive damages.
    ◦ Precedent-setting cases defining limits of accountant liability under federal securities laws.
    ◦ Application of Anti-SLAPP law to declaratory relief claim seeking interpretation of proposition 65’s notice requirements and determination of notice validity.
    ◦ Disqualification of counsel and expert for ethical lapse in failing to return improperly obtained privileged documents.
    ◦ Validity of the Clean Water Act's “migratory bird” rule as a basis for federal jurisdiction over water bodies and the scope of the “waste treatment system” exemption to Clean Water Act coverage.


“Judge Landau is smart, diligent, and so conscientious in everything she does and says, on the record or off the record. She always knows exactly what everyone in the room needs to hear at the right moment. She manages her time very well, and commands attention. She is gentle and kind when that is what is needed, and strong and direct when that is needed too. In all my hearings in front of her, regardless of whether I won or lost, my clients always reported back that they thought she was fair and thoughtful and felt heard. I do not get this feedback from other judges, but with her it was consistent. She has a gift for attuning herself to each case, and I always learn something from her every time I have an opportunity.”

“Judge Landau approached the case with gentle kid gloves at the beginning when my client really needed it, and also re-educated my client about the need to look at the case as a “math problem” so that we could actually move forward in settling the issues and moving the case forward. It was the perfect balance of delicate touch and straight-shooting that helped us settle a case we haven’t been able to settle in years.”

“I really appreciate Judge Landau’s time management and the way she structured the mediation. She exceptionally managed our time, didn’t allow the parties to focus on the wrong issues, and re-directed my client in exactly the ways she needed to hear – with gentleness and mindfulness. I look forward to having many more mediations and/or private judging relationships with her in the future, and would recommend her in a heartbeat. I have already recommended her to all 5 attorneys at my firm for future mediation cases.”

“Judge Landau did an excellent job. The parties were able to settle the case with respect to all issues. I fully expected this to happen because Judge Landau was an excellent Judge when she was with the Contra Costa Superior Court.”