Hon. Maria Rivera (Ret.) joins ADR Services, Inc. after spending over two decades on the Courts, where she earned a reputation for being a highly accomplished, intelligent, and fair jurist.

Justice Rivera attended law school as a scholarship student, and spent her summers in work-study programs at the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation (now Bay Area Legal Aid). She also completed an externship with California Supreme Court Justice Raymond Sullivan. After graduating first in her class, she went on to work at Morrison & Foerster for three years to develop commercial litigation experience. Thereafter, she worked in the Consumer Fraud Division of the District Attorney’s office and in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco before returning to private practice. Ultimately, she became a partner, and later of counsel at McCutchen Doyle Brown & Enersen.

Inspired by her dedication to community service and commitment to improving access to justice, Justice Rivera ran for and was elected to an open seat on the Contra Costa County Superior Court in 1996. As a Judge, Justice Rivera held assignments in the General Trial Department, Family Law, and the Civil Fast Track Division, where she adjudicated hundreds of matters in law and motion, presented by demurrer, motions to dismiss, motions to strike, Anti-SLAPP motions, and scores of motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication. She was appointed to the California Court of Appeal in 2002.

As a recipient of numerous awards and accolades commemorating her staunch dedication and commitment to improving access to justice for all, Justice Rivera has been recognized throughout her legal career for her unwavering support of legal services throughout California. In addition to her long-standing devotion to serving the community, Justice Rivera enjoys a reputation for having a strong legal mind and for actively settling her cases as a trial judge. She is known to be a fair jurist who is well-versed in the law and has an exceptional depth and breadth of legal expertise.


  • Disability Access
  • Elder Care and Abuse
  • Employment
  • Family Law
  • Construction
  • Trade Secrets
  • Land Use and CEQA
  • Landlord / Tenant
  • Real Property
  • Wage and Hour



Associate Justice, First Appellate District, Division Four, 2002-2018

  • Appointed by Governor Gray Davis
  • Confirmed and sworn in January 25, 2002


Judge of the Superior Court, 1996-2002

  • Civil Division (Single Assignment), 2000-2001
  • Chair of Family Law Building Committee, 1997-2001
  • Executive Committee, 1997-1999
  • Supervising Judge, Family Law Division, 1997-1999
  • General Trial Department (Felony Trials), 1997



J.D., magna cum laude, 1974

  • Recorder Prize (graduated first in class)
  • Full academic scholarship, 1972-1974
  • McAuliffe Honor Society, 1972-1974

SMITH COLLEGE, Northampton, MA

B.A. with distinction, 1970

  • Graduated as First Group Scholar
  • Dean’s List 1967-1970
  • Academic scholarships (four years)
  • Major in Hispanic Studies, Minor in Psychology
  • Junior year abroad in Madrid, Spain


Certificate of Completion, “Mediating the Litigated Case”, 2018

  • Completed 42 hours of mediation training


MCCUTCHEN DOYLE BROWN & ENERSEN (formerly Van Voorhis & Skaggs), Partner, Counsel, 1981-1996

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Assistant U.S. Attorney, 1979-1981

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Deputy District Attorney, 1978-1979

MORRISON & FOERSTER, Associate, 1974-1978

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT, Extern to the Honorable Raymond Sullivan, Fall 1973




JUDICIAL EXCELLENCE AWARD, East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association, 2013

TARA RIEDLEY BARRISTERS’ CHOICE AWARD, Bar Association of San Francisco, 2012

LEADERSHIP AWARD, California Latino Judges Association, 2012

BENJAMIN ARANDA III ACCESS TO JUSTICE AWARD, Judicial Council, California State Bar, 2011

ALUMNA OF THE YEAR, University of San Francisco Law School, 2010

DISTINGUISHED JUSTICE AWARD, San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association, 2002

TRIAL JUDGE OF THE YEAR, Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers’ Association, 2001



  • University of San Francisco School of Law, Board of Governors, 2002-2005,
  • University of San Francisco School of Law, Board of Counselors, 2016-Present
  • Hispanic National Bar Association, Judicial Section, 2005-Present
  • California Latino Judges Association, 2004-Present
  • California Judges Association, 1996-Present
  • National Association of Women Judges, 1996-Present
  • Federal-State Judicial Council, 2001-2006
  • Contra Costa County Bar Association, 1981-1996
  • State Bar of California, 1974-1996
  • San Francisco Bar Association, 1974-1978


  • Alameda County Bar Association, East Bay Diversity Bar Coalition, Judicial Mentoring Project, Mentor, 2008-2013
  • Bar Association of San Francisco, Judicial Mentorship Program, Mentor, 2009-2013
  • Wardrobe for Opportunity, Advisory Board Member, 1998-2008
  • Invest in Kids, Advisory Board Member, 1996-2007
  • Latino Leadership Forum, Advisory Board Member, 1997-2002
  • Center for Human Development, Advisory Board Member, 1997-2001

Representative Cases


  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Lease interpretation (CLI/CPI provisions)
    • Attorney’s fees (prevailing party) breach of contract
    • Fraud
    • Loan refinancing
    • Partnership dissolution
    • Breach of contract
    • Fraudulent conveyances
    • Fair Credit Reporting Act
    • Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
    • Alter ego
    • Unfair business practices/unfair advertising (B&P Code §§ 17200/17500)
    • Commercial leasing
    • Banking
    • Promissory notes
    • Indemnity
    • Contract interpretation
    • Specific performance
    • Choice of law
  • Dispute involving whether an agreement to enter into a second partnership agreement with terms “substantially identical” to the first partnership agreement was sufficiently certain to be enforceable.
  • Dispute involving whether a student seeking to claim violations of the Education Code (which prohibits a private, post-secondary school from making untrue or misleading statements to prospective students relating to its course offerings, the school, employment opportunities or enrollment opportunities) must also prove materiality, reliance and causation.


  • A large group of jail inmates sued for damages and injunctive relief due to allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement lasting 18 months.
  • Handled a case involving a large group of jail inmates who sued for damages and injunctive relief due to allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement lasting 18 months.


  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Multi-party construction defect
    • Building code interpretation/application
    • Construction defect (electrical)
    • Design defect
    • Equitable tolling
    • Public Contract Code
    • Breach of contract
    • Interpretation of contract
    • Equitable indemnity
    • Fraud
    • Stop notices
    • Mechanics liens
    • “Privette” issues
  • Dispute between contractor and public agency regarding compensation due. The issue was whether the contractor had to also comply with statutory claim procedures (Govt. Code §§905; 910) when it complies with contractual claim procedures (Govt. Code §930 et seq.).


  • The plaintiff alleged she was sexually assaulted by her manager after they and their co-workers engaged in after-hours social activities. The plaintiff sought to hold employer liable for damage from the assault.
  • Handled a case in which there was an action brought against a former employee by an employer alleged conversion of money and property; the case involved a cross-complaint for breach of contract related to compensation.
  • Defendant allegedly paid plaintiff a salary rather than hourly pay; plaintiff sued for overtime due, split shift premiums, and missed meal and rest breaks.
  • Settled a matter where there was an issue with workers not being paid by employers due to the employers wanting to pay on a per-task bases.
  • Claimant alleges she was subject to sexual harassment by supervisor and that employer failed to investigate, protect and remedy.
  • Settled a low seven figure matter where the plaintiff sued their supervisor and employer for damages resulting from alleged sexual assault and harassment.
  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • FEHA (age, gender, race, ethnicity discrimination)
    • Workplace harassment
    • Constructive discharge
    • Discharge against public policy
    • Employee/independent contractor issues
    • Exempt vs. non-exempt employees
    • Non-compete clauses/confidentiality agreements
    • Wage and hour disputes
    • Family leave
    • Whistleblowers
    • Wrongful termination
  • Plaintiff alleged that she was harassed by a co-worker who directed her duties, but who was supervised by others.
  • Defendant allegedly paid plaintiff a salary rather than hourly pay. Plaintiff sued for overtime due, split shift premiums, and missed meal and rest breaks.

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  • Dispute between family members regarding funds taken from co-owned property lease payments. Issues included negotiations regarding repayment of funds, management of lease operations going forward, use of residence on property, agreement regarding conservation easement, and rights of first refusal.
  • Justice Rivera was the supervising judge in the Family Law Department for two years and three months. During that time she oversaw the workload of the entire department and handled every type of show cause order, motion, short cause matter and long cause matter.
  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Child custody and support
    • Spousal support
    • Characterization/transmutation of property
    • Omitted assets
    • Collection of arrears
    • Sanctions/attorney’s fees
    • Enforcement of Marital Settlement Agreement
    • Civil conspiracy
  • Husband founded two companies prior to the marriage that continued to operate during the marriage. Husband gifted ownership shares in the companies to children from a prior marriage. Issue was whether the shares were partially community property, applying the analysis of Van Camp v. Van Camp, (1921) 53 Cal.App 17.
  • Dispute involving whether the division of property in a marital settlement agreement constituted a fraudulent transfer in derogation of a creditor’s rights.
  • Dispute involving whether property purchased by wife during the marriage, and held in wife’s name alone, was nonetheless community property.

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  • Condominium owner's unit damaged by water intrusion from exterior. Parties disputed apportionment of costs to repair damage. Related disputes re: unpaid HOA dues, attorney fees, lost rent. HOA agreed to repair damage and waive past due HOA dues; owner agreed to waive claims for lost rent and attorney fees.
  • Plaintiff alleged that tenants breached the lease by moving out prior to the contractual ending date. Defendant's cross-claimed alleging failure to return portion of deposit and personal injury due to conditions on the premises.
  • Action by multiple tenants against landlord for failure to provide code-compliant units and for damages resulting from displacement from their residences.
  • Commercial landlord and tenant dispute relating to holdover, fixture removal and payment of utilities.


  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Bad faith
    • Homeowner’s insurance coverage
    • Coverage issues/exclusions
    • Equitable contribution
    • Waiver and estoppel
    • Duty to defend
    • Third party claims
    • Liquidation
    • Surety bonds
  • Dispute about whether it was improper for an insurer to defend under a reservation of rights, in an action in which only some of the claims were covered by the homeowners’ policy, where the insurer reserved the right to recover the costs of the defense.
  • Dispute about whether subcontractor’s default judgment against general contractor can be used as the sole basis for proving liability on the part of the general contractor’s surety.
  • Case regarding whether building owner’s insurer could sue subcontractor for alleged negligence in causing fire because insurer is bound by owner’s waiver of subrogation rights in prime contract.


  • As an attorney, Justice Rivera specialized in land use law and CEQA, representing both developers and municipalities. Justice Rivera has become well-schooled in all areas of land use, including planning and zoning law, the Subdivision Map Act, the Permit Streamlining Act, development agreements, and the Coastal Act. She is also well versed in takings law, including inverse condemnation claims arising out of regulation and imposition of mitigation measures.

    In the last few years of her practice, Justice Rivera worked primarily on processing the approval of a major development proposal that has since permitted the construction of 11,000 dwelling units. She managed the administrative and hearing process, the legal oversight of the Environmental Impact Report, and the post-approval litigation. She also adjudicated many land use and CEQA matters as an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal.
  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Forest Practices Act
    • Polanco Redevelopment Act
    • Coastal Act
    • Porter Cologne Water Quality Control Act
    • Water Quality Control Plans
    • CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)
    • Toxic Tort
  • Whether the one-time conversion of less than three acres of timber, which would be exempt from environmental review under the Forest Practice Act (and CEQA), is nonetheless not exempt where the preservation of the trees in question was imposed as a mitigation measure in the granting of two previous timber harvest plans.
  • At issue was whether the Coastal Commission could assert jurisdiction to hear an appeal of the approval where a local government approves a project in response to a writ of mandate ordering it to do so, and the Coastal Commission was a party to the writ proceedings.
  • Dispute involving whether defendants, manufacturers of equipment designed to discharge hazardous wastes, could be held liable for the costs of cleaning up the resulting pollution. Liability was disputed because defendants did not directly discharge, or have authority to prevent the discharge of, hazardous wastes onto redevelopment property, or instruct the users of their products to dispose of such wastes in a manner that would create a nuisance.
  • Published Opinions:

    • Heron Bay Homeowners Assn. v. City of San Leandro (2018) 19 Cal.App.5th 376 [CEQA/§1021.5 attorney fees]
    • People ex rel. Dept. of Transportation v. Hansen’s Truck Stop, Inc. (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 178 [eminent domain]
    • San Francisco Beautiful v. City and County of San Francisco (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1012 [CEQA exemptions]
    • Ideal Boat & Camper Storage v. County of Alameda (2012) 208 Cal.App.4th 301 [planning and zoning]
    • Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions v. City of Healdsburg (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 988 [attorney fees]
    • No Wetlands Landfill Expansion v. County of Marin (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 1098 [CEQA]
    • Oakland Heritage Alliance v. City of Oakland (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 884 [CEQA]
    • Katzeff v. Dept. of Forestry & Fire Protection (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th460 [CEQA/Forest Practices Act]
    • Martin v. City and County of San Francisco (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 392 [CEQA exemptions]
    • Salmon Protection & Watershed Network v. County of Marin (2004) 125 Cal.App.4th 1098 [CEQA exemptions]
    • Save Our Sunol v. Mission Valley Rock Co. (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 276 [land use voter initiative]
    • Bowman v. City of Berkeley (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 572 [CEQA]

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  • Truck hauling sand lost its brakes resulting in multi-vehicle accident. This matter involved one of the injured plaintiffs.
  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Negligence of school district
    • Automobile accidents
    • Negligence of security company
    • Negligence in auto or motorcycle repairs
    • Defamation
    • Wrongful death
    • Intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress
    • Dog bite cases
    • Assault and battery
    • Nuisance abatement
    • Private nuisance (neighbor disputes)
    • Auto/bicycle accidents
    • Slip-and-falls
    • Medical malpractice
    • Asbestos and toxic exposure
    • Helicopter crash
    • Elder Abuse
    • Trespass
    • Products liability
    • Tort Claims Act
    • Premises liability
    • Respondeat superior
    • Dangerous condition of public property
    • Libel/slander/invasion of privacy
    • Malicious prosecution
    • Property damage
    • Childhood sexual abuse
    • Proposition 65
  • Plaintiffs were injured in a helicopter crash. Plaintiffs embarked on the ride during an air show in which the city participated by providing the airport and some city employees, but the city did not own or direct the helicopter or its pilot. At issue was whether the city was vicariously liable for injuries.
  • Matters involving injuries to U.S. Navy service members. At issue was whether the U.S. Navy is immune from liability, and whether the trial court correctly instructed the jury to take into account the Navy’s proportional fault in allocation of responsibility among defendants for plaintiff’s injuries.
  • Plaintiffs claimed age discrimination and emotional distress when an airline refused to allow them to board their ticketed flight.
  • Plaintiff alleged that a chemical in defendants’ products violated Proposition 65. At issue was whether the plaintiff must prove that the chemical alleged in the complaint is the exact chemical in defendants’ products, or whether a plaintiff can meet its burden if the evidence as a whole establishes a violation of the statute, absent a material variance from the pleading.
  • Plaintiff sued car manufacturer alleging seat belt was unsafe because its design created risk of accidental release; plaintiff sought to certify a class action.
  • Truck hauling sand lost its brakes resulting in multi-vehicle accident. This matter involved one of the injured plaintiffs.

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  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Guardianships
    • Holographic wills
    • Conservatorships
    • Trusts (validity; accounting; amendments)
    • Suspension of trustee
    • Undue influence
    • Third-party claims


  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Insurance
    • Dental malpractice
    • Medical malpractice
    • Veterinary malpractice
    • Accounting malpractice
    • Legal malpractice
    • Chiropractic malpractice
    • Professional negligence


  • Broker sued seller for cancelling listing agreement before it expired; seller alleged that broker had improperly and negligently provided unlicensed and non-competent contractors to work on upgrades to residence in anticipation of sale, resulting in additional costs.
  • Parties were co-purchasers of property. Disputes arose re control of property and accounting. Partition action filed related claims and cross-claims for damages/reimbursements. Partial settlement: agreement reached regarding access issues, sale of property and escrow instructions.
  • Types of Cases Handled:

    • Breach of purchase and sale agreement
    • Partition
    • Failure to disclosure/fraud
    • Commercial lease
    • Ground lease (estate dispute)
    • Boundary disputes
    • Unlawful detainer/eviction (commercial)
    • Homeowners’ Associations
    • Easements/licenses/express and implied
    • Quiet title
    • Ellis Act
    • Wrongful foreclosure
    • Condemnation/inverse condemnation
    • Subdivision Map Act
    • Development partnerships
  • Dispute about whether the city’s relocation assistance ordinance (which requires landlords who remove their properties from the rental market to pay tenants monetary relocation assistance regardless of the tenants’ financial need) violates the Ellis Act, either directly or by imposing a prohibitive price on the withdrawal of property from the rental market.
  • Dispute about whether Civil Code §2932.5 (requiring the assignee of a mortgagee to record the assignment before exercising the power to sell the property) applies to deeds of trust as well as mortgages.
  • Dispute between family members regarding funds taken from co-owned property lease payments. Issues included negotiations regarding re-payment of funds, management of lease operations going forward, use of residence on property, agreement regarding conservation easement, and rights of first refusal.
  • Condominium owner's unit damaged by water intrusion from exterior. Parties disputed apportionment of costs to repair damage. Related disputes re: unpaid HOA dues, attorney fees, lost rent. HOA agreed to repair damage and waive past due HOA dues; owner agreed to waive claims for lost rent and attorney fees.

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  • • Municipal law (rent ordinances; zoning ordinances; design review)
    • Charter School Act
    • No Child Left Behind Act
    • Private Post Secondary and Vocational Reform Act
    • Brown Act
    • Warsaw Pact/Airline Deregulation Act
    • Taxation (FTB; State Board of Equalization)
    • Workers compensation (all issues)
    • Professional licensing (medical; nursing; chiropractic; legal)
    • Administrative and traditional mandamus
    • Qui tam/False Claims Act
    • Civil Rights Act
    • Federal pre-emption
    • Privacy under the California Constitution
    • DMV licensing