Hon. Susan Lopez-Giss (Ret.) joined ADR Services, Inc. in 2022 after 15 years of distinguished service as a Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

After graduating from Loyola Law School, Judge Lopez-Giss joined the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, where she served 30 years as a prosecutor and later Assistant City Attorney. She developed a groundbreaking domestic violence prosecution program that was implemented statewide, only one of such programs in the country at the time. She was instrumental in drafting a domestic violence prosecution manual, filing guidelines, and restraining order statutes, and helped train law enforcement and medical personnel across the country. Judge Lopez-Giss developed guidelines for the handling of child abuse and child sexual abuse and served on interagency councils that addressed child abuse and neglect that included training for mandatory reporting. She also reviewed and personally oversaw the prosecution of hundreds of such cases. For her pioneering work developing these programs, Judge Lopez-Giss was presented with a Resolution by the Mayor and the Los Angeles City Council.

Judge Lopez-Giss later became the City Attorney’s Assistant General Counsel for the legal division of the Department of Water and Power. She holds the distinction of being the first woman to reach that position. In this role, Judge Lopez-Giss represented LADWP in matters involving employment, contracts, regulatory matters as mandated by the Federal Energy Commission, the California Public Utility Code, water issues, rate structures, tort, workers’ compensation, and environmental issues. She advised the City Council and the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commission and provided advice on legal questions involving interpretation of the Charter and the State Constitution. Additionally, she was individually responsible for representing the commercial interests of LADWP, which included bankruptcy matters, bond issuances (for over $1 billion in LADWP bond issuances and refinancings), and litigation of fraud and false claims actions. It was in this capacity that she litigated the City of Los Angeles v. Fleishman Hillard Inc. matter, which resulted in a total recovery of $5.7 million to the City.

Following a remarkable legal career, Judge Lopez-Giss was appointed to the bench in 2007 and served 15 years as a Judge, with the entirety of her time on the bench devoted to Family Law. Judge Lopez-Giss presided over thousands of cases involving all types of contested and complex Family Law matters, including parentage cases, custody and visitation issues, child and spousal support, business valuation, and property division. In addition to issuing thousands of rulings, Judge Lopez-Giss became known for actively and successfully settling her cases. Her strong legal mind, coupled with an emphasis on collaboration to resolve family disputes, has resulted in her reputation as an effective negotiator, problem solver, and adjudicator.


  • Business & Contract: breach of contract; bankruptcy matters; bond issuances; fraud
  • Family Law: parentage; custody; visitation; child and spousal support; business valuation
  • Government & Statutory Interpretation: California False Claims Act litigation; government contracts; Federal Energy Commission; California Public Utility Code; water rights issues; rate structures; government tort liability; government energy environmental law
  • Property and Neighbor Disputes: boundary disputes; property damage; nuisance
  • Personal Injury: sexual abuse; domestic violence; harassment


  • Parentage Cases
  • Custody: move-away; abuse allegations; parental alienation; educational issues (including psychological, developmental, emotional, socialization); medical issues; co-parenting failures
  • Visitation: allocation of time; distance; best interests determinations
  • Child and Spousal Support: imputation of income; allegations of hidden assets
  • Business Valuation: sole ownership, partnerships, corporations; entertainment industry: bonuses vs. loans; real estate, rental income; depreciation vs. actual assets


Los Angeles Superior Court, 2007-2022

  • Judge of the Superior Court, Family Law Division, 2007-2022
  • Personnel and Budget Committee, 2015-2022
  • Facilities Committee, 2017-2020
  • Los Angeles Superior Court Executive Committee, 2011-2013


Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, 1976-2006

  • Assistant General Counsel, Department of Water and Power, 2004-2006
  • Assistant City Attorney, 1991-2004
  • Criminal Prosecutor, 1976-1991

Los Angeles Municipal Court, 1974-1976

  • Law Clerk, Law and Motion, for Hon. Robert Fainer and Hon. Warren Deering
  • Drafted opinions for the judges on motions relating to discovery, jurisdiction, interpleader, demurrers, and summary judgment.


  • Loyola University School of Law, D., 1974
  • University of California, Los Angeles, A.B. Political Science, 1971
  • Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Certificate of Completion, “Mediating the Litigated Case”, 2021 (42 hours of mediation training)


  • East District Judicial Excellence Award, 2007
  • Recognized by the Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of the “Top 75 Women Litigators in the State”, 2005
  • Honorary Service Award Certificate from California Congress of Parents, Teachers and Students for special recognition of outstanding service to children and youth, 1994
  • Commendation by Ventura County Superintendent of Schools and the Constitutional Rights Foundation for participation in Mock Trial Competition, 1991
  • Presented with a Resolution by the Mayor and Los Angeles City Council in recognition for developing the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence Program, 1981


Judge Lopez-Giss has been recognized throughout her career for her staunch dedication to charitable causes. She served as a member of the Board of Directors of the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center from 2005 to 2016, on the National Selective Service Committee from 1996 to 2007, is actively involved in the American Friends of the Hebrew University and the 1939 Club, and is a lifetime member of the California Women Lawyers Association.

Representative Cases

Family Law

  • Settled including- Family Law-spousal support- Civil Defamation and Unlawful Detainer and concurrent liability for unpaid rent. VERY high conflict-All resolved.
  • High conflict dissolution where the main asset, the family residence was the source of dispute. The issue for the buy out was each party's claimed reimbursements as well as alleged income , or lack thereof. Structured buy out resulted in settlement
  • VERY high conflict custody dispute involving three children and disputes over parenting. Resolved with the agreement of the parties to go to co-parenting and a modification of visitation. Saved the parties from potential emotional depositions and trial.
  • 17 year marriage - Division of two pieces of real property - taking issues.
  • Dual Restraining Orders in a parentage case. Mother was only allowed to see the three year old child with a professional monitor. Father granted Sole Legal custody. Very high conflict. Settled with the monitor removed and a stepped up custody plan. Father gets final right of decision for medical and educational issues. Any disputes to return to mediation. SETTLED-- no case names for website
  • High conflict custody matter- Child not attending school- multiple DVRO's-- VERY high conflict about issue of marital property and possible Marvin claims-RESOLVED

view all


“By far, the best mediation experience I have had in a long time. Thanks for being a rock star.”

“Excellent neutral. I will recommend her as much as possible. Will use her again.”

“Judge Susan Lopez-Giss recently settled a very contentious case for our client involving high conflict parents, domestic violence allegations and custody issues at a crisis level with three children. Counsel on the opposing side is esteemed in the community, but the potential for settlement seemed non-existent. Nevertheless, Judge Lopez-Giss assisted the parties and counsel so that after three sessions a resolution was reached. The Judge was firm with the parties but allowed them to be heard. She was well prepared and worked diligently including extra phone call conferences to allow counsel to brainstorm. I recommend her for high conflict cases.”

“Judge Lopez-Giss is incredibly smart and intuitive. She just understands the dynamics in these really difficult custody cases. With very little information given to her at the beginning of the mediation, she just immediately had a read on where the issues were. I’ve worked with many different neutrals in the past, and it kind of blew me away how quickly she understood.”

“I’ve used Judge Lopez-Giss to successfully resolve cases and she does a terrific job of connecting with clients and making sure they feel understood. She knows when to let them talk and hear them out. And then I think she also knows when to shut them down if they’re going in a direction that is a losing direction. She’s not afraid to tell them that, which is really important, because if you let clients down into a fantasy world of what they can get, then you’re never going to settle. So she hears them out, and she connects with them, but she’s also very willing to call them out when necessary.”

“Judge Lopez-Giss operates frequently with a no-nonsense approach, but she also makes use of a tremendously empathetic manner in her mediations. Family law is a weird place. You start with really good people who are going through a really bad time – a couple that once loved each other enough to get married who now can no longer agree on the time of day. She doesn’t try to make people like each other, just to resolve their differences so they can move on.”

“I appreciate that Judge Lopez-Giss starts the day off with all the parties and attorneys together. She doesn’t make anybody reveal any information. She just makes sure that each party together, and jointly, hears the information she’s sharing. So there’s no confusion as to what her process is and no confusion about what typically will happen, including the emotional and financial strain of litigation if settlement is not reached. It’s helpful that day because the parties clearly know they better give it their all. World War III hasn’t really started yet because that really happens when you’re in litigation and then the emotional and financial strain is huge.”


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