Since retiring from the Superior Court in 2005, Judge O’Brien has served as a neutral mediator in more than 600 cases, and has presided over 50 arbitrations and private trials and 20 discovery references.

Judicial Experience

  • 1987 – 2005 Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge
  • 2004 – 2005 Assigned exclusively to mandatory settlement conferences
  • 1995 – 2005 Central Civil Trials, Los Angeles
  • 1994 – 1995 Supervising Judge, East District
  • 1985 – 1987 Citrus Municipal Court
  • 1987 Presiding Judge, Citrus Court

Professional Experience

  • Mandatory Settlement Department, Los Angeles Superior Court
    • Judge O’Brien was selected as a Settlement Judge based on his extensive judicial experience, intelligence and personable demeanor. In this capacity he settled hundreds of cases ranging from thousands to millions of dollars in a wide variety of practice areas achieving an impressive settlement rate and party satisfaction.
  • In-House Counsel, Southern California Edison Company
    • Judge O’Brien represented Edison before the South Coast Air Quality Management District, California Public Utilities Commission, California Air Resources Board, California Coastal Zone Conservation Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He served as lead counsel in the certification proceedings for the Balsam Meadow Hydroelectric Pump- Storage Power Plant, as well as three related lawsuits filed in state court.
  • Deputy, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office
    • Four years specializing in land use environmental matters, including dozens of eminent domain cases and writ proceedings. He authored dozens of official City Attorney Opinions and tried cases involving CEQA compliance, planning and zoning decisions, and the issuance of subdivision maps. For two years he represented the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in air quality and other environmental state and federal regulatory proceedings, primarily before the California Energy Commission and California Air Resources Board. Tried and argued civil cases at every level of state and federal trial and appellate courts, except the United States Supreme Court.


Judge O’Brien’s numerous articles have been published in (alphabetically) the CEB Civil Litigation Reporter, Gavel to Gavel, Journal of the California Dental Association, Judicature, the Loyola Law Review, the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, National Review, The Bench, The Glendoran, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the San Pedro News-Pilot. He is also a current member of the Board of Editors of The Bench.


Judge O’Brien has been a guest law school lecturer at Loyola Law School, Pepperdine University Law School and Whittier Law School. He has also served as a lecturer, moderator and/or panelist at continuing education programs of the California Judges Association, the California Center for Judicial Education and Research, the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Trial Practice Inn of Court of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the East Valley Bar Association, the law firm of Snell and Wilmer, the Southern California Mediation Association and the USC Law School Alumni Association.

Other Public Service

Judge O’Brien is a member and chair of the Civic Center Advisory Committee of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.  The committee is tasked with advising the City Council on the development of a new City Hall complex.  He has previously served as a member and vice chair of the City’s Finance Advisory Committee and as a member of the RDA Dissolution Oversight Board.  He has also served an appointed three-year term on the ADR Committee of the California State Bar Association, and served for five years on the ADR Committee of the California Judges Association (CJA).  He was CJA president 2002-03 and continues to serve the organization on various committees and as a conference speaker and panelist.

Service Organizations

Judge O’Brien is a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Palos Verdes Peninsula and a past president of the Rotary Club of West Covina.  In 2016-17 Judge O’Brien served as District Governor of Rotary District 5280 (Greater Los Angeles).  He is also a member of the Paul Harris Society and is a Major Donor to The Rotary Foundation.


  • 1987 Alumnus of the Year, Whittier Law School
  • 2005 Recipient, “Civility Award,” Los Angeles Chapter of ABOTA
  • 2009 Honorary Doctor of Laws, Whittier Law School


  • 1972 J.D., Whittier Law School
  • 1968 B.A,  USC School of Journalism

Representative Cases


“Judge O’Brien not only settled the dispute, but he also helped defuse a fair bit of contentiousness that built up during the case between the attorneys. Judge O’Brien’s effectiveness also really helped to push aside any lingering combativeness between us. And that just really impressed me. He is a mediator who does many things well. Across the board – in terms of efficiency, in terms of building bridges, in terms of getting people to move – he’s kind of just good at everything. There’s nothing he does badly. He does everything extremely well. He’s just fast, efficient and fair.”

“Judge O’Brien is especially good with cases involving challenging personalities. I like to use Judge O’Brien when I know either my client or opposing counsel is going to be extraordinarily difficult because he’s got an unusual degree of patience and thoughtfulness. If you’re having difficulty with client control, and you have a very emotionally raw client, and you don’t think they’re going to present well with a typical mediator, he is someone who is very understanding. People who are very upset with the process or the system and think what’s going on is really unfair – Judge O’Brien has a really good way of explaining how the rules work to people. And he corrals them without them noticing they’re being corralled.”

“Judge O’Brien is extremely well prepared and tenacious. He’s clearly been through virtually every permutation of how a case can unfold, and he provides extremely helpful and thoughtful guidance to the parties in understanding their positions. He has the ability to be both persuasive, in terms of his legal arguments and his practical arguments, and also tough and tenacious when that’s what the situation requires.”


Articles / Publications