Justice Steven M. Vartabedian

Justice Steve VartabedianSteve possesses more than 35 years of experience as a judge and neutral. Since his retirement from the California appellate bench in June 2010, he has been busy as a neutral, handling a high number of mediations and arbitrations. Wanting to spend more time closer to his family, including his only grandchildren, Steve has decided to accept cases in the Salt Lake City area. He brings a style of dogged determination to help the parties reach settlement.

Starting in 1981, including his March 2005 assignment to the California Supreme Court, Steve served at every level of California’s judicial system, adjudicating matters across the entire spectrum of types of actions. While the 180 opinions authored and published in the California Appellate Reports demonstrate the breadth off matters handled, he has a particular depth of experience in cases in employment law and in those alleging serious personal injury and product defect including those claiming punitive damages. He also has a strong background in insurance disputes, real estate, medical service contracts, and probate matters. As both a trial and appellate judge, he assisted many parties in settling.

In the area of employment law, his neutral work has included the following types of claims: wrongful discharge, retaliatory termination and demotion, discrimination (sex, race, ethnicity, disability and age), workplace harassment, Family Medical Leave Act, and wage-and-hour.

Judicial/Neutral Work History:

  • Of Counsel, Dowling Aaron Incorporated, 2010-present.
  • Justice, California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, 1989-2010.
  • Judge, County of Fresno, 1981-89.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Training:

  • AAA Courses: Rise in Retaliation Claims 2015; Using Mediation Techniques in Commercial Arbitration, 2014; Don’t Strike Back: Retaliation Claims on the Rise, 2013; Confidentiality in Labor and Employment Arbitration, 2013; Ethics 101, 2012; Arbitration Advocacy, 2012; Arbitration Awards: Safeguarding, Deciding & Writing Awards, 2011; Arbitration Fundamentals and Best Practices for New Arbitrators, 2011.
  • Association of Conflict Resolution: Conflict Coaching, 2010.
  • ADR Courses presented to judges by members of Fresno Pacific University Dispute Resolution faculty: Early Neutral Training, 2008; Advanced Mediation Training, 2007; Basic Mediation Skills Training, 2006.


  • California State University, Fresno (BA, with honors-1972).
  • Santa Clara University, School of Law (JD, magna cum laude-1975).

Published Opinions:

Sampling of the 180 appellate opinions authored and published:

  • Yarick v. Pacificare, (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 1158 (Contractual structure of Medicare Advantage Program)
  • UAS Management v. Mater Misericordiae Hospital (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 357 (Anti-trust: tying arrangement)
  • CSEA v. Livingston Union School Dist. (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 391 (Disciplinary notice policy violated employee due process)
  • Johnson v. Ford Motor Co. (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 137 (Lemon law case: punitive damages limited)
  • Kern County Retirement Employees Retirement Assn. v. Bellino (2005) 126 Cal.App.4th 781 (Definition of “county employee” concerning public board disqualification)
  • Horsford v. CSU Trustees (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 359 (Employment discrimination, damages & attorney fees)
  • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. City of Fresno (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 914 (In lieu utility fee stricken)
  • Sweat v. Big Time Auto Racing (2004) 117 Cal.App.4th 1301 (Defective bleachers unaffected by release agreement)
  • Romo v. Ford Motor Co. (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 738 (Punitive damages limited), and (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 1115. (Corporate malice)
  • Maples v. Kern Assessment Appeals Bd. (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 172 (Fair market assessment of oilfield: $3.56 billion)
  • Thompson v. Tracor Flight Systems (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 1156 (Constructive discharge based on pattern of harassment)