Hon. Maria-Elena James
United States Magistrate Judge (Ret.)

Available for Mediations

Hon. Maria-Elena James has served on the bench for a remarkable thirty years, first as a Civil and Family Law Commissioner with the San Francisco Superior Court, and later for twenty-four years as a United States Magistrate Judge with the Northern District of California.  She further served as the Chief Magistrate Judge of the Northern District for three years.  In 2010, she was honored with the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association’s “Federal Jurist of the Year” award.

Known for her professionalism and even-handed temperament, Judge James conducted thousands of settlement conferences as a Magistrate Judge and became highly regarded for her ability to settle disputes.  Previously, as a Family Law Commissioner, she had established a formal program of procedures for settlements.  Judge James also served as the Northern District’s ADR Magistrate Judge, where she was in charge of coordinating the alternative dispute resolution program with the Court.


  • United States Magistrate Judge, Northern District of California   1994-2018
    Chief Magistrate Judge, Northern District of California   2009-2012
    Alternative Dispute Resolution Magistrate Judge, Northern District of California
  • Superior Court Commissioner, San Francisco Superior Court   1988-1994
    Civil Discovery and Civil Law Motion Commissioner   1988-1989
    ​Family Law Commissioner   1989-1994


  • San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, Family and Child Services Department   1984-1988
    Deputy City Attorney
    Supervising Attorney
  • National Labor Relations Board, Staff Attorney   1983-1984
  • San Francisco Deputy Public Defender   1979-1983
  • San Francisco District Attorney’s Office   1978-1979
    Director of the San Francisco Small Claims Court Education Project
    ​Consumer Fraud Unit


  • Civil Rights/Discrimination
  • Employment
  • Environmental
  • Family Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Securities/Commodities


  • University of San Francisco School of Law, J.D.   1978
  • University of California, Irvine School of Social Ecology, B.A.   1975


Pursuing the Judge’s Guidance Outside of Conference (The Lorman Group)   2019