Justice Aaron brings extensive experience as a jurist in both the federal and state courts in San Diego. Most recently, she served as an associate justice on the California Court of Appeal for 20 years, resolving all types of cases filed in the Superior Court, including complex civil cases, probate disputes, and family law matters. Because of her extensive appellate experience, she is particularly sought after to conduct post-judgment mediations, assisting parties to assess the risks of pursuing an appeal and weighing those risks against the benefits of reaching a settlement. Justice Aaron has also been retained by appellate practitioners to participate in moot court presentations, to help them prepare for oral arguments.

Prior to her appointment to the Court of Appeal, Justice Aaron served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California for over eight years. She conducted hundreds of ENE conferences and settlement conferences in federal civil cases and was lauded by both the bar and the district court bench for her excellent interpersonal skills and exceptional ability to settle even the most contentious cases. The Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation described her as an "acclaimed magistrate judge" and a "gifted mediator."

One colleague praised Justice Aaron as a "brilliant and hardworking jurist whose problem-solving skills are invaluable in resolving some of the most complex cases we hear." Justice Aaron applies those same problem-solving skills in assisting parties to arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution to their case, enabling them to avoid the expense, uncertainty, and stress of protracted litigation. She cultivates an atmosphere in which the parties feel free to fully express their concerns and know that they are truly being heard and understood. She is persistent in her approach, believing that reaching a settlement is always in the parties’ best interests.

Practice Areas
  • Appellate
  • Business/Contractual
  • Civil Rights
  • Employment
  • Insurance
  • Personal Injury
  • Professional Malpractice (Legal and Medical)
  • Real Estate
Hobbies & Interests

Justice Aaron enjoys international travel, spending time with family, participating in her book club, seeing movies, and hiking with friends.

Legal Career
  • Full-time Neutral, Judicate West (2023-Present)
  • Associate Justice, California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division One (2003-2023); Served on the State-Federal Judicial Council and the Appellate Advisory Committee
  • U.S. Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (1994-2003)
  • Founder, Aaron & Cortez; Specializing in Federal Criminal Defense and Civil Rights (1988-1994)
  • Trial Attorney, Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc.; Specializing in Indigent Federal Criminal Defense (1984-1988)
Education & Professional Affiliations
  • J.D., Harvard Law School (1981-1984)
  • B.A., Stanford University (1977-1979)
  • Lawyers Club of San Diego, Sustaining Member
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL), Former Board Member of the San Diego Chapter; Former Judicial Advisory Board Member
  • Appellate Inn of Court, Master
  • San Diego County Judges Association, Former President; Former Board of Directors
  • San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Former Board Member
  • University of San Diego School of Law and California Western School of Law, Former Adjunct Professor; Teaching trial practice
Achievements & Awards
  • AJC Judge Learned Hand Award Recipient
  • Presented at the Appellate Institute on the state of PAGA in the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Served on numerous panels for the appellate bar on various aspects of the appellate process
Below is a sampling of the various matters Hon. Cynthia G. Aaron, Ret. presided over on the bench, tried as an attorney, or handled as a neutral.

Appellate Evaluation

  • Participated as a panelist in a moot court presentation in a high-profile case. Provided feedback to counsel to assist counsel in honing the arguments to be presented at oral argument.
  • Consulted with counsel in pre-litigation matter concerning thorny legal issues likely to arise in the trial court, and what the ultimate outcome of those issues was likely to be, whether in the trial court or on appeal.

Appellate Mediation

  • Conducted post-judgment mediation in high-profile case, at the suggestion of the trial court, to attempt to settle the case prior to appeal, in part by explaining to each party its respective risks in pursuing an appeal.

A.D.A.

  • Assisted parties in settling numerous cases involving claims of lack of accessibility of properties and establishments open to the public and claims of failure of employers to accommodate plaintiffs’ disabilities.

Consumer Class Action

  • Adjudicated claims of violations of numerous consumer rights statutes, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; Consumer Legal Remedies Act; Unfair Competition Law; Consumer Privacy Act; and California’s “lemon law.”

Contractual

  • Resolved numerous disputes involving commercial contracts; commercial lease disputes; liability of corporate officers; dissolution of partnerships and corporations.

Wage and Hour Class Action

  • Ruled in a number of cases raising the propriety of class certification and denials of class certification; whether classes were properly defined; adequacy of a named plaintiff to represent the class; sufficiency of notice to the class; intervention.

Wrongful Termination

  • Settled many cases, and adjudicated many others, raising claims of wrongful termination; constructive termination; retaliation; sexual harassment; gender discrimination; age discrimination; wage and hour claims, and other Labor Code violations.

Environmental Issues

  • Ruled in cases involving allegations of violations of all aspects of CEQA including whether an environmental impact report (EIR) is required; adequacy of the EIR; adequacy of mitigation measures.

Family Law Issues

  • Decided numerous cases involving custody disputes, fiduciary duties of divorcing spouses, transmutation of property, and all many other aspects of family law.

Civil Rights

  • Conducted settlement conferences in numerous cases involving allegations of violations of plaintiffs’ civil rights, including claims of excessive force by law enforcement officers; cases brought by prisoners against prison personnel. Ruled in many cases involving the same types of claims, as well as the bystanders’ rights when injured by law enforcement officers conducting police activity.

Government Liability

  • Successfully conducted numerous settlement conferences and ruled in lawsuits brought by and against public entities involving premises liability; governmental immunities; taking of private property by public entities; building permit issues; zoning disputes; nuisance claims.

Coverage

  • Settled, and adjudicated, multiple cases involving insurance coverage disputes; allegations of bad faith; duty to defend, fraudulent concealment.

General IP

  • Decided numerous discovery disputes and conducted settlement conferences in cases raising allegations of patent and trademark infringement.

Probate

  • Decided a number of disputes among beneficiaries of trusts and between a trustee and beneficiaries; interpreted terms of trusts and wills; adjudicated adequacy of language in a trust to effect conveyance of property; resolved claims of undue influence, the applicability of “no contest” clauses to challenges brought by trust beneficiaries.

Medical Malpractice

  • Conducted settlement conferences in, and decided, numerous cases brought against physicians alleging professional negligence, including statute of limitation issues.

Professional Malpractice Legal

  • Conducted settlement conferences in, and decided, numerous cases brought against attorneys alleging professional negligence, including statute of limitation issues and claims of negligent misrepresentation.

Real Property

  • Adjudicated numerous cases involving commercial lease disputes; building permit issues; HOA issues such as duties of officers and applicability of the business judgment rule; quiet title claims; unlawful detainer actions.

General Negligence

  • Decided many cases resulting from various types of accidents occurring in numerous contexts; resolved claims involving the existence of whether public entities such as schools, hospitals, etc., or private party defendants owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; applicability of primary assumption of risk.
  • Plaintiff, a former high school student, filed a complaint against the school district, alleging causes of action for negligent hiring and negligent supervision/retention of a teacher whom plaintiff alleged had propositioned her to engage in acts of prostitution and made inappropriate sexual comments to her throughout her junior and senior years. Plaintiff brought separate claims against the teacher. The district denied liability, asserting that it was unaware of any potential for misconduct by the teacher in question prior to plaintiff’s report to school officials. The case settled after both plaintiff and the district accepted a mediator’s proposal, which they had requested at the conclusion of the mediation.

Premises Liability

  • Mediated a multi-party lawsuit in which the plaintiff sued the office building management company, contractors and subcontractors for injuries he suffered at work, as a result of defendants' alleged negligence. The defendants filed cross-complaints against each other, each alleging that the negligence of the others was the cause of the plaintiff's injuries.

Product Liability

  • Resolved cases alleging negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty in which plaintiffs raised claims of defective design and/or manufacture.
  • The plaintiff sued an online seller and U.S. subsidiary of the manufacturer of a personal use product after the plaintiff was injured while using the product. The plaintiff claimed strict liability based on manufacturing and design defects, as well as deficient warnings, and negligence.
Thank you for your efforts. There is no substitute for success and you were able to resolve this difficult claim over one day. I will recommend you to others at my firm and hope we have the opportunity to work together again soon.
- Partner at a Firm Based in San Diego
Thank you, Justice Aaron, for your indispensable assistance! I sincerely believe this would not have happened without your skills and valiant efforts!
- Attorney on a Business Contractual Case
Thank you again for mediating this case. It was a pleasure working with you. The fact that we were able to come to a solution in this difficult case speaks volumes about your skill as a mediator.
- San Diego Attorney on a Business Fraud and Misrepresentation Case
Thank you so much, Justice Aaron. You have been amazing and gracious with your time and help through this process. I look forward to working with you again on other future matters.
- Managing Partner of a Firm Based in San Diego
It was lovely to work with you and I am amazed that you managed to forge a consensus, given how far apart we were. I will definitely add you to our firm’s list of recommended mediators.
- Partner at a Leading Litigation Firm with 30 Offices Nationwide
Thank you for your efforts; you did great and have great mediation skills. I would not hesitate to use you again.
- Trial Lawyer with 40 Years of Experience in Corporate Disputes
I want to express my sincere appreciation for the kind and forthcoming manner in which you conducted the mediation in this matter. It meant the world to me and (my client) and I just wanted you to know that. Regardless of how this case turns out, (my client) left that mediation feeling respected, heard, and safe. Thank you.
- Attorney on a Sensitive, Sexual Harassment Case Against a School District
It has been a pleasure working with you and we are excited at the prospect of mediating another case in front of a true professional. Your now-proven reputation will always precede you as, without your tireless efforts, this matter would not have resolved. I will not hesitate to use and/or strongly recommend you in the future. We are appreciative of you.
- Managing Attorney at a Personal Injury Firm in San Francisco
Hon. Cynthia G. Aaron, Ret.
Based in San Diego | Available Nationwide
Case Manager: Susi Bush