Private Judging

ADZ Law is proud to announce that retired San Mateo County Superior Court Commissioner and founding partner Lauren Zorfas has returned to ADZ Law as a private judge, expanding our services in that regard. Commissioner Zorfas’ unparalleled depth of experience in family law, background and experience in mediation, and tenure as a Court Commissioner at the San Mateo Superior Court, will help parties resolve disputes, reach resolutions expeditiously, and allow them the dignity and grace to resolve their matter in a private and personal setting.

What is a private judge?

Under Article VI § 21 of the California Constitution, as amended in 1966, “on stipulation of the parties’ litigant the court may order a cause to be tried by a temporary judge who is a member of the State Bar, sworn and empowered to act until final determination of the cause.”

What this means is as long as the parties agree, a licensed attorney may preside over their case and act as their judge. This means that this appointed judge, or sometimes called a “Judge Pro Tempore,” may make all the decisions that a judge sitting in a courtroom would make, but this can take place in any setting outside of the courtroom.

What is the benefit of a private judge?

A private judge can offer you more time with your case than our already impacted courts can. A private judge can address your case more expediently since a private judge decides how many cases they will take so they can be more accessible than the Superior Court judges who have no control over the numerous filings with the court.

A private judge can offer parties the ease and comfort of a less formal proceeding and an element of privacy that the public courts cannot offer. Hearings with a private judge often are held in the privacy of the private judge’s office and there is no public presence or other parties. Hearings are not in a formal courtroom and often can be conducted informally. This informal setting also allows for conferencing such that contested hearings may be avoided completely.

Why pay for a private judge when the court system is free?

It is true that you pay a private judge to preside over your case, but you also pay your attorney to prepare filings with the court as well as their time for attendance at court (even if your matter is called last). Since the private judging process is less formal than the court system and a private judge has greater availability, often what may have been a lengthy, formal filing can be resolved with a conference call or a video conference. A private judge will have the time to conference with counsel to narrow issues and ensure that time with the private judge is used wisely and efficiently.

Why use Commissioner Lauren Zorfas (retired) as a private judge?

Commissioner Lauren Zorfas has 23+ years of experience in family law. She recently retired from the San Mateo County Court as a Court Commissioner where she presided over, among other things, family law matters that addressed custody, visitation, property division, support and domestic violence. She attended the prestigious Straus Institute at Pepperdine for mediation training and has utilized that training to mediate hundreds of family matters. Zorfas understands the emotional stress that parties going through the family law process endure having represented clients for so many years. She is sensitive to these emotions as she even handedly applies the law.

Are there other services besides private judging?

Yes, Commissioner Lauren Zorfas is trained and has the skills to act as a:

  • Mediator, offering mediation services for an entire case, or just a portion of a case that may remain contested.
  • Special master, providing orders or guidance over a specific issue or issues.
  • Parent Coordinator, resolving issues as they relate to the implementation of a parenting plan.
  • Neutral Case Evaluator, allowing counsel a glimpse of what an indicated ruling might be based on the strengths and weaknesses of the case. (Note: to maintain neutrality, this is always provided to both sides)

Commissioner Zorfas’ services are available to represented and unrepresented parties.

Private judging can help parties resolve their disputes more efficiently and effectively than going through the traditional court system.

  • Clients face lengthy delays obtaining dates as the pandemic and lack of adequate judicial staffing clog traditional courts.
  • The length of time between filing a case and having the Court address a matter can be months.
  • Private judging allows clients to forgo the traditional court review process, hastening a more efficient path to resolution.
  • Private judging allows a cost-effective resolution to cases by minimizing the need for formal legal filings and pleadings which can add significant costs in time and fees.
  • Private judging can take the form of a Settlement Officer or Special Master to work as a complement to the Court process, narrowing issues for litigation, or settlement may be reached without the need for any Court intervention.

Commissioner Lauren Zorfas is a qualified and impartial private judge who will act as a trusted source, helping parties and counsel tailor the legal process to fit their needs and expeditiously reach a resolution.

  • Commissioner Lauren Zorfas gained a remarkable depth of experience during her time as a Court Commissioner for the San Mateo County Superior Court.
  • Zorfas has a wide breadth of experience including litigation, mediation, Executive Director a legal non-profit, Supervising Attorney of Self-Help Services at the San Mateo Superior Court and as a siting Judicial Officer.
  • Zorfas has 23+ years of legal experience, mostly focused on family law, but also including civil practice, probate and estate planning, and criminal law.
  • Zorfas and ADZ Law are pleased to offer yet another service to assist families facing complex legal issues with compassion, humility and neutrality.

Learn more about how to hire a private judge in the San Francisco Bay Area

ADZ Law, LLP represents clients in San Mateo County and the San Francisco Bay area of California. We invite you to contact ADZ Law, LLP to schedule a consultation to learn more about our practice areasour team, and how we can help you.