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Hon. James Steele (Ret.) brings more than 35 years of legal experience as a civil trial lawyer, in-house counsel and Superior Court judge to his work resolving disputes.


Alisa Martinez


Judge Steele has 35+ years of unusually diverse legal experience bringing him a unique perspective to practical problem solving and building consensus.  In addition to having served the Superior Court in both unlimited jurisdiction and probate division trial courts, Judge Steele was on the Court’s Executive Committee and was the architect of one of the Central District’s highly successful pro bono settlement programs for which Judge Steele received the Bar Associations Administration of Justice Award.  And, in somewhat unusual fashion, while he was a sitting judge, he also served as a trial juror which Judge Steele found to be a priceless educational experience.  Prior to his appointment to the Superior Court, Judge Steele’s background as a lawyer included 10 years as in-house counsel for both public and private companies where he was responsible for both transactional and litigation matters, and, in his subsequent 19 years as a lawyer in private practice. he was affiliated with a larger law firm before finally establishing his own, highly successful business litigation firm handling financial, real estate, construction, automobile dealership and general corporate matters.

Since beginning his post-judicial career as a neutral, Judge Steele has been involved in excess of 1,500 disputes which include complex, multi-party disputes throughout the United States and he serves not only as a mediator, but also as arbitrator and judicial trial referee.  Judge Steele is also a much sought-after speaker by bar associations, corporate law departments and other organizations. His speaking engagements have included the West Coast Casualty Conference, the USC Trusts & Estates Conference, various Los Angeles County Bar Association sponsored events, and AOC and JES Continuing Education programs for judicial officers, as well as many of The Rutter Group programs.


  • ADR Services, Inc., Neutral (2014-2017)
  • The Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, Judge (2007-2014)
  • Steele & Persoff, Founding Attorney (1989-2007)
  • Rosen, Wachtell & Gilbert, Of Counsel (1988-1990)
  • In-House Corporate Law Departments, Staff Attorney, Assistant General Counsel, General Counsel (1977-1988)


  • The Rutter Group’s Construction Law Program, Author
  • UCLA Construction Law & Management, Lecturer
  • USC Construction Law & Management, Lecturer


  • Diploma in Tax Law, University of San Diego School of Law
  • M.B.A. (Real Estate), University of Southern California 
  • J.D., California Western School of Law
  • B.A., San Diego State University 


  • “5 Commandments of Successful Mediation” – Daily Journal (January 16, 2015)
  • “Trial Master and General Judicial Reference Procedures: Advantages over Arbitration” – GP Solo Magazine, ABA (January/February 2015)
  • “The Advantages of Judicial Reference” (Construction) – Daily Journal (November 21, 2014)
  • “Objection, 352! Shouted Juror #8: The Importance of Keeping Your Case Presentation Simple and On Theme” – Advocate, Journal of Consumer Attorneys Association of Southern California (August 2013)
  • “‘Objection!’, Shouted The Juror, A Non-Lawyer” – Daily Journal (March 29, 2013)
  • “The Code of Conduct for Fiduciary Investment” – Daily Journal (July 9, 2010)
  • “Fiduciary Investment 101: Practical Advice on Discharging Fiduciary Investment Duties” – Advocate – Journal of Consumer Attorneys Association of Southern California (May 2010)
  • “California Mechanics Liens On Private Works of Improvement”, Builders Books, Inc.


  • American Bar Association 2019 Mid-Winter Construction Law Forum Panelist – “Legal Writing Practicum for Construction Lawyers”
  • West Coast Casualty Construction Defects Seminar.  “Courtroom Trials, Arbitrations & Judicial References: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly” Moderator/Panelist (2016)
  • USC Trusts & Estates Conference.  Mastering the Art of Mediation – “Tax Advantaged Settlement Strategies” Panelist (2016)
  • The Rutter Group (Thomson Reuters) Recent Developments and Cases in Probate Law.  Panelist (2015)
  • The Rutter Group (Thomson Reuters) Construction Law.  Developer, author, moderator and lead panelist (2014)
  • CJER 2013 Faculty Member – “Fiduciary Investing” and “Attorneys’ Fees in Probate”
  • LACBA Trusts & Estates Symposium 2013: Legal Perspectives on Fiduciary Investment and the Economics of Marriage.  Panel Member: “Were the Trustee’s Investments Prudent?”
  • “Cross-Over Issues Probate/Family Law” Panel Member – LACBA (2012)
  • “Fiduciary Investment 101” – CJER Probate Institute (2011)
  • “Financial Information: Managing Discovery and Evidentiary Issues” [LASC Civil Bench Seminar (2010)]
  • Construction Law (MCLE qualified), Faculty – UCLA Construction Management Program (1989-2009)


Alisa Martinez