Hon. Nancy E. Zeltzer (Ret.) is an esteemed judge, trial lawyer, and litigator with a wealth of practical experience in all aspects of civil litigation. Over her highly successful 45-year legal career, Judge Zeltzer has demonstrated impressive levels of skill and intuitive insight into litigation, earning the respect of colleagues as an approachable yet practical authority in the legal field. Judge Zeltzer’s distinguished tenure as a trial judge for the Orange County Superior Court began when she was appointed to the bench in 2014. As a judge, she presided over a wide variety of civil cases, as well as ruling on law and motion matters and handling settlement conferences. Prior to her taking the bench, she regularly served as a volunteer Temporary Judge presiding over settlement conferences in the Court’s Unlimited Civil division.

Judge Zeltzer’s extensive litigation experience includes serving as a Partner in the Labor and Employment Practices Group at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith.  She first joined the firm in 1987. As a litigator and trial lawyer, Judge Zeltzer has represented both public and private entities and their employees, as well as elected and appointed officials, in actions involving claims for employment harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, civil rights violations, peace officer misconduct, false arrest and a variety of other claims brought against public entities, their elected officials and employees. Judge Zeltzer also has vast experience in handling cases involving professional malpractice, both medical and legal, premises liability, products liability, motor vehicle liability, bad faith and other insurance coverage claims, and construction defects.

Judge Zeltzer is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), reflecting her deep insight into civil litigation and trial law. She held numerous leadership roles, including serving as the Orange County Chapter President in 2020, and serving as national delegate and board representative to the national organization. She received the Orange County Chapter’s Trial Lawyer of the Year Award as a litigator and received its Judge of the Year Award in 2020 as a trial judge.


Partner, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith 1987-2014
• Administrative Partner and Managing Partner of the Orange County office.
• Partner in the Labor & Employment Practices Group.
• Joined the firm in 1987.

Partner, Ruston, Nance, McCormick & DiCaro 1978-1981; 1983-1987
• Partner specializing in litigation.
• Joined the firm as an Associate in 1978.

Deputy Attorney, California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) 1981-1983


  • Employment
  • Government Entities
  • Professional Malpractice
  • Personal Injury
  • Premises Liability
  • Products Liability
  • Wrongful Death
  • Insurance / Bad Faith
  • Real Estate
  • Landlord / Tenant
  • Construction Defect


• Judge of the Year, Constitutional Rights Foundation
• Judge of the Year, Orange County Chapter of ABOTA
• Judicial Civility Award, Banyard Inn of Court of the American Inns of Court
• Trial Lawyer of the Year, Orange County Chapter of ABOTA
• Western State University Hall of Fame
• Dean’s Counselor, Western State University College of Law
• Southern California “Super Lawyer” in Governmental Practice
• Southern California “Super Lawyer” in Employment Litigation
• Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent Peer Rating 5.0 out of 5
• Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers™ Martindale-Hubbell


• Juris Doctor, Western State University College of Law 1977
• Bachelor of Science, Western State University 1975


American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA)
• 2020 President of the Orange County Chapter of ABOTA.
• Served as a National Delegate, Member at Large, Secretary, Treasurer/Vice President.
• Board Representative to the ABOTA National Organization.
• Served as an attorney and later as a judge for the “Masters in Trial” program.
Orange County Bar Association (OCBA)
• 2023 Secretary of the Board of Directors, OCBA Masters Division
Robert A. Banyard Inn of the American Inns of Court
• 2020-2021 President
Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF)
• Judicial Advisory Board
• Peer Review Advisory Board
• Regularly serves as Presiding Judge for the CRF Mock Trial Program and participates in Peer Court and Constitution Day.
Orange County Association of Affinity Judicial Officers
• Founding Member and Secretary
Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL)
California Judges Association (CJA)


Judge Zeltzer has served as a lecturer for the Rutter Group, Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), Orange County Bar Association (OCBA), Banyard Inn of Court, Defense Research Institute (DRI), Association of Southern California Defense Counsel, and others, on a variety of topics involving civil litigation, including discovery, law and motion practice, litigation resolution and trial practice. She has lectured extensively on the topic of Civility and Professionalism in the practice of law. Judge Zeltzer has also authored materials for numerous seminars including Lewis Brisbois Employment seminars on topics including settlement considerations, trial preparation, and updates in employment law.

Judge Zeltzer has participated as an attorney, and later as a judge, in the Orange County Chapter of ABOTA’s “Masters in Trial Program.” She is an Adjunct Professor on Civil Trial Practice for Western State University College of Law.


Constitutional Rights Foundation
• Judge Zeltzer regularly serves as a presiding Judge for the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) Mock Trial program. In 2023, she presided over the championship round. She also participates in the Peer Review Court program as well as Constitution Day.
Saturday Academy of Law
• Judge Zeltzer is a regular participant in this program that provides ninth grade students with a unique opportunity to improve their reading, writing and critical thinking skills, while learning more about the legal profession and higher education opportunities.
UCI Moot Court Competition
• Judge Zeltzer regular presides over multiple rounds of the UCI Moot Court competition for the University of California, Irvine, School of Law.
Orange County Working Wardrobes
• Judge Zeltzer uses her spare time and jewelry making hobby to craft jewelry for donation to Orange County’s Working Wardrobes.

Representative Cases


  • Six employees working as servers at a restaurant were terminated after the restaurant was sold to a new owner. The workers were all over 65 years of age and claimed that their termination was based on their age as evidenced, in part, by the subsequent hiring of new, younger, attractive employees.
  • Plaintiff, a County of Orange Probation Department, with a congenital hand deformity, assigned to a Juvenile Correction facility claimed to have suffered harassment based on disability, retaliation and constructive termination as the result of derogatory comments (the majority of which were posted on an internet blog allegedly by co-employees) and treatment from co-employees. Plaintiff sued his fellow employees and the county which he claimed failed to prevent harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.
  • High level female employee of market research company brought claims for gender discrimination and harassment, including failure to promote provide opportunities equal to male executive employees.
  • An Assistant Sheriff was released from her “At Will” employment position with the County Sheriff’s Department in the aftermath of a Grand Jury investigation of an inmate’s murder at one of the County’s Jail facilities. The plaintiff sued the Orange Sheriff’s Department as well as the acting Sheriff, a County Supervisor, the County’s District Attorney, two deputy district attorneys as well as additional sworn personnel from the Sheriff’s Department. The plaintiff claimed that her release constituted a violation of her Civil Rights based on Equal Protection and Due Process grounds, and a violation of her rights under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights. She additionally claimed discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • Orange County Sheriff’s deputy claimed to a have suffered retaliation from employer following his alleged exercise of his first amendment right to free speech based on his raising safety concerns regarding the Sheriff’s Department Air Support Bureau.
  • Plaintiffs brought four separate cases against their employer, a private ambulance company. Each individual was a former employee suing the company (and in some cases their co-plaintiff’s) and a management employee of the entity, for a variety of employment related claims, including sexual harassment, discrimination based on gender, age and disability and wrongful termination. The complicated and interlocking claims were ultimately resolved in four different settlements
  • Six employees of County Environmental Health Department sued County of Orange and two supervisors claiming discrimination and harassment based on gender and retaliation. Their claims ranged from failure to promote to wrong wrongful termination.
  • Plaintiff, a supervising deputy coroner claimed that she suffered discrimination and harassment based on gender and sexual orientation and retaliation following complaints of said alleged mistreatment.
  • A female deputy sheriff sued the county and her co-employees claiming a hostile work environment caused by male supervisors discussing their sexual exploits in the far east. Plaintiff also sued for retaliation and failure to accommodate her disability.
  • Plaintiff sued Sheriff’s department for disability discrimination and for failure to accommodate his disability, severe myopia, which could be corrected to 20/20 with soft contact lenses. At the time of the plaintiff’s application the Sheriff’s Department would not hire employees who required soft contact levels to correct vision to 20/20 due to concerns that the deputy’s vision could be compromised by gases or fumes and/or become dislodged in combat or other physical circumstances.
  • Twelve plaintiffs, former and current deputies of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department claimed that their employer breached an implied in fact contract to promote them to a higher rank and to a particular assignment. The county denied the existence of an implied in fact contract to promote.
  • Lawsuit by a Deputy District Attorney who claimed that he was terminated in violation of Public Policy as a “whistle blower” because he complained of “lack of accountability” as well as inefficiency in the operation of the District Attorney’s Office
  • Public employee found unfit for duty due to apparent mental breakdown and placed off work following denial of her application for a disability retirement. Plaintiff brought a Petition for Writ of Mandate pursuant to Government Code section 31725 claiming an entitlement to reinstatement and back pay for the time period she was not working for the County.
  • Plaintiff, an on-site property manager of an apartment complex sued the owner of the property for wrongful termination as wells as wrongful eviction which she claimed was based on her age and her disability.
  • Plaintiff, a female deputy District Attorney sued the former District Attorney, two Assistant District Attorneys and a deputy District Attorney claiming discrimination based on race, gender and marital status and retaliation for allegedly protesting unlawful conduct. During the course of the lawsuit, a second lawsuit was filed by the husband of the deputy district attorney. The husband, the Chief Deputy Attorney, was released from his at will executive position following alleged improprieties. The husband claimed that his firing was premised on his assistance in wife’s lawsuit.
  • Action brought by employee of tile installation company for alleged wage and hour irregularities and for wrongful termination and retaliation following alleged complaints pertaining to wage and hour violations.
  • Plaintiff, a probationary employee, claimed discrimination based on his race (black) and national origin (Ghana) when he failed to earn a permanent position with the County’s Children’s Home which operated as a 24-hour emergency shelter care facility, for children who have been abused, abandoned, and/or neglected. Plaintiff claimed harassment and constructive termination following receipt of a note which contained racial slurs and a death threat.
  • Plaintiff, a Human Resources manager by a private company brought a FEHA claim for wrongful discharge based on gender after her release from employment. Defendant claimed that the termination was due to plaintiff’s dereliction of her duties and her practice of favoritism regarding employees she supervised.
  • Plaintiff, a long-term county employee working in the public works department. The plaintiff had a long history of employment deficiencies and warnings and corrective action. The plaintiff claimed that his termination was based on his age and his ethnicity Plaintiff also claimed harassment from his supervisor and co-employees including his supervisor spitting into a sink where the employee was washing his hands.

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  • Lawsuit brought by a motorist against the County and a deputy for alleged violation of Civil Rights following his arrest for resisting or obstructing a Peace Officer in the performance of his duties.
  • Action involved women participating in a Community Work Release Program (work at designated locations in lieu of incarceration in a county jail facility) assigned to the County Animal Shelter. Plaintiff was one of six females who claimed that she was coerced into having sexual relations by a supervisor at the shelter who threatened to assign them the most difficult and repellent duties if they refused his sexual advances. The individual defendant shelter worker was found guilty of criminal charges stemming from the alleged incidents and sentenced to state prison. Lawsuits were brought by of the victims alleging violations of Civil Rights and related tort claims.
  • Lawsuit brought against Assistant County Counsel for alleged false arrest and violation of civil rights following plaintiff’s arrest for issuing threats against a Judge and Assistant County Counsel.
  • Petition for Writ of Mandate brought by communications company seeking to invalidate contract bid for installation of multi-million-dollar 800-Megahertz Communications system. Petitioner claimed fraud and irregularities in governmental bid process.
  • Multiple claims by individuals claiming assault and battery, false arrest and violation of civil rights concerning detentions and arrests made by local and county peace officers.
  • Multiple claims for assault, battery, negligence and violation of civil rights regarding incidents occurring in local and county detention and correction facilities.
  • Multiple claims by food service proprietors claiming damages for alleged improper reinforcement of governmental health and safety laws.

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  • Young man who suffered catastrophic injuries sued a local public entity claiming a dangerous condition of property, overgrown shrubbery extending into adjacent highway, which allegedly caused the plaintiff bicyclist to steer around the obstruction resulting in a head on collision with a motor vehicle. Plaintiff was rendered a quadriplegic as a result of the accident. Plaintiff claimed that his accident caused by inadequate warning and defective design as well as failure to enforce local codes regarding removal of weeds on private property.
  • Plaintiff claimed that his accident was caused by construction activity undertaken by the city on highway 1 which work was undertaken due to continual landslides on adjacent cliffs. Plaintiff claimed that improper barrier placement caused motorist confusion which resulted in a head-on collision. Plaintiff suffered the loss of a leg in the accident.
  • Claim brought for injury to seaside home in Malibu. Plaintiff claimed that water intrusion and resulting damage was traceable to the public entity’s construction on an adjacent highway.
  • Claim brought against the State of California for wrongful death following a fatal collision on a freeway. Plaintiffs claimed that the type of median barrier utilized was ineffective in preventing the cross over accident.
  • Plaintiff suffered a severe injury to his leg when the driver of his vehicle lost control on a curve. Plaintiff claimed a defective design of the curving canyon road and inadequate signage.
  • Multiple lawsuits involving claims of roadway and sidewalk defects causing injuries to pedestrians, including sidewalk cracks, depressions and uplifts, as well as curb and ramp irregularities.
  • Multiple lawsuits against state and local public entities for damages caused by interaction with smoldering coals in beach fire rings.

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  • Plaintiff sued owner of apartment complex after he suffered severe injuries inflicted by a neighbor who attacked him with a machete. Plaintiff claimed that the owner and property manager were aware of dangerous behavior of the tenant and should have taken action to protect plaintiff.
  • Plaintiff claimed to have suffered a broken arm on a cruise ship after falling on outside stair way. Plaintiff claimed that raised rubber treads were improperly placed and caused her to catch her toe and fall to the deck below.
  • Multiple claims for trip and fall and slip in falls in a variety of locations including markets, restaurants and concert venues.


  • Action for legal malpractice brought against County and a deputy public defender. The plaintiff was convicted of assault and battery with great bodily injury and a hate crime enhancement. Following his conviction, a new trial was granted based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Plaintiff claimed that his lawyer’s decision to enter into an agreement regarding evidence to be admitted at trial fell below the applicable standard of care and resulted in his wrongful conviction. In addition to the usual “trial within a trial” requirement in a legal malpractice case, the plaintiff was required in this legal malpractice case to prove his “factual innocence”.
  • Action for medical malpractice/wrongful death. Plaintiff claimed that the death of his wife was caused by the interaction between two psychotropic medications prescribed by the defendant, a Psychiatrist, for decedent’s depression. Plaintiff claimed the cessation of one medication and prescription of a new medication precipitated a seizure which resulted in decedents death.
  • Action for medical malpractice brought on behalf of minor child who suffered a catastrophic brain injury after administration of a dose of the DPT vaccination.
  • Action for Wrongful death brought by widow of husband who died of heart failure after being released from emergency room where he presented claiming chest pain and other symptoms.
  • Action for medical malpractice by male who claimed that improper treatment of ruptured Achilles tendon resulted in permanent damage including severe limitation of mobility.
  • Wrongful death brought by widower of decedent who claimed that physician’s failure to biopsy lesion removed from decedent’s foot led to the death of wife from metastatic Melanoma.
  • Plaintiff claimed that an emergency hysterectomy was necessitated by negligence of physician who delivered her baby by vaginal birth despite the fact that she had previously delivered a child by cesarian section.
  • Plaintiff sued his surgeon after he was rendered a quadriplegic following spinal surgery. Plaintiff claims the catastrophic injury was the result of improper intubation during surgery.

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  • The parents of a 14-year-old boy who was electrocuted when he attempted to put out fire started by a downed power line from City owned Power Company brought a wrongful death action against the City. The plaintiffs claimed that the city’s standard practice to re-energize a power line after interruption of power during thunder storm created a dangerous condition of public property resulting in the death of their son.
  • The Survivors of five people killed when vehicle struck train at intersection of train tracks and state highway sued for wrongful death based on alleged dangerous condition of public property. The plaintiff’s claimed that timing of traffic lights at intersection caused traffic to back up onto the railroad tracks, trapping the decedents’ vehicle which was then struck by an oncoming train.
  • Plaintiff, the mother of decedent brought action against city and a police officer for wrongful death. Her son was fatally shot by a police officer responding to a “check the welfare” call. The child was holding a toy gun which the officer mistook for a real weapon. The plaintiff claimed that the officer’s mistake as to the weapon was not reasonable and that he was negligent in failing to call and wait for back up before entering the dark apartment. The officer brought a cross complaint for fraud and deceit against his Chief of Police and his supervising officer based on the claim that the department’s failure to properly train him resulted in the death of the child as well as his own stress and psychological injury.
  • Action brought by heirs of young African-American man who was died while in during physical struggle with local police officers. Decedent’s family claimed he was suffocated by officers while the City claimed his death was due to enlarged heart and the influence of Drugs.
  • Minor child brought action for wrongful death of his against local public entity. The decedent was shot 11 times by officers on the ground and in a helicopter. The officers insisted the decedent had a weapon and had shot at the helicopter. No weapon linked to the decedent was ever located at scene.


    • Lawsuit brought on behalf of minor child who suffered injury to penis during circumcision. Plaintiff claimed that a defective Mogen Clamp used in the procedure caused the injury which resulted in amputation of a portion of the penis.
    • Plaintiff, a young woman in her twenties brought an action against automobile manufacturer after suffering a traumatic brain injury following a partial rollover accident. In her lawsuit against plaintiff claimed that the seat-belt pretensioner on the vehicle’s passenger side, which operates to quickly tighten a seat belt in a crash, was not properly programmed as a result of a defective design. The defendant claimed that the subject vehicle’s seat belt system met all applicable federal safety standards, and that a pretension-er would not have provided any meaningful protection to plaintiff in the accident.
    • Male gym member sued gym and manufacturer of weight lifting machine for orthopedic injuries suffered on incline leg press machine. Plaintiff sued both the manufacturer of the equipment claiming defective design, including use of inappropriate metal, and the fitness center which he claimed failed to properly inspect and maintain the machine as well as a failure to warn of possible injury due to reasonably foreseeable misuse of machine.
    • Defendant created a business of drying flowers and selling retailers for sale to the public. The defendant was sued by a retail warehouse concern after multiple warehouses suffered infestation by a pest known as the Indian meal moth. Plaintiffs claimed that the infestation was traceable to defendant’s practice of drying his flowers outdoors and unprotected from pests.
    • Multiple lawsuits for personal injuries suffered in office equipment accidents allegedly due to failures in design and/or production.


      • Plaintiff restaurant, located in multi-tenant mall, sued owner and property management company claiming breach of contract and property damage following gray water back up causing flooding of restaurant prior to opening. Plaintiff also sued plumbing concerns involved in maintenance of the premises.
      • Landlord brought claim against Guarantors of commercial lease based on lessees’ breach of lease. Defendants claimed that tenant’s performance under the lease was rendered impossible due to government regulations issued during Covid-19 pandemic.
      • Multiple actions involving wrongful eviction and breach of contract and unlawful detainer claims.


      • Multiple cases involving local and state highway accidents involving vehicles, motor vehicles, bicyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.


      • Down-hill homeowner brought action against uphill neighbor for land subsidence allegedly caused by excess water runoff from defendant’s property.
      • Multiple lawsuits for damages to property due to land failure of hillsides owned, maintained or controlled by various public entities.


      • Plaintiff, a man in his twenties, claimed to have recovered memories of sexual molestation and physical abuse allegedly committed by his father more than 20 years prior to the instigation of litigation.
      • Plaintiff, a woman in her early twenties, brought a claim against her father, a lawyer, for alleged sexual abuse and physical torture, including satanic ritual activities. Plaintiff claimed to have recently recovered the memories during therapy.


      “Judge Zeltzer was balanced in her approach with both parties. She conveyed an interest in my client’s experience and sympathized with him while also explaining the strengths and weaknesses of his claim. Conversely, she clarified to the defense the merits of the claim and the financial common sense in reaching a resolution. Ultimately the parties came to a satisfactory settlement.”


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