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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 legal experience as a transactional lawyer, trial lawyer, in-house counsel for both public and private companies, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge. He serves as a mediator, arbitrator, judicial trial and discovery referee and special master. In his first 5 years as a neutral, Judge Steele oversaw in excess of 1,200 disputes, totaling well in excess of $2 billion in controversy.  He is regularly called upon to mediate complex, multi-party disputes throughout the United States and most recently, conducts numerous mediations and evidentiary hearings by videoconference (Zoom).

Judge Steele is highly regarded for his ability to quickly grasp highly complex and technical areas of law and fact, as well as his ability to effectively communicate those complexities to others. With his unique blend of in-house counsel, private law practice, judicial experience, and even having served as a trial juror through verdict while he was a sitting judge, Judge Steele has developed a practical and creative approach to resolving disputes. Judge Steele also recognizes the critical role counsel play in the process and he works closely with them and their clients on a collaborative basis.

At the time of his retirement from the Los Angeles Superior Court in late 2014, after having served on the Court’s Executive Committee and in various assignments including presiding over an IC (general jurisdiction) courtroom, he was one of the probate division’s most respected trial judges. He was also the architect and Committee Chair of the court’s highly successful Central District Probate Settlement Program which continues in operation to the present serving the public and legal community.  Judge Steele was honored by the Bar Association with its Administration of Justice Award for his work in developing this program.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Steele was employed by major, private and publicly-held corporations as in-house staff counsel and assistant general counsel before rising to the position of general counsel. He joined a Century City-based law firm and later established his own firm handling financial, real estate, construction, automobile dealership, and general corporate law matters.

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