Judge Joel Pressman served the legal community as a civil trial attorney and judge for over 45 years and is now available to serve as a mediator, arbitrator, and private judge. As an attorney, he represented plaintiffs and defendants in diverse civil litigation matters, including international matters in the state and federal courts, and is a longtime member of ABOTA. As a judge, he earned himself a reputation as a practical and knowledgeable settlement judge and mediator in hundreds of cases, including complex cases statewide. As an independent civil trial calendar judge, he was responsible for managing a caseload of over 1,000 diverse civil cases. Judge Pressman also served as a leader in the court as Supervising Judge of the Vista Superior Court and also spent many of those years on the Court Executive Committee. He is regarded as a judge with common sense, practical experiences, and a genuine understanding of the dynamics of difficult cases and clients as well as the related costs (financial and otherwise) of litigation. As both a trial lawyer and a judge, he presided over the trials of catastrophic personal injury cases, business and commercial disputes, medical and legal malpractice matters, employment wage and hour, harassment, ADA, and civil rights. Judge Pressman has extensive experience in insurance coverage, insurance bad faith, and real estate litigation and class actions, including antitrust actions.

According to Judge Pressman, "I see private dispute mediation as a continuation of those aspects of my judicial career which I found most satisfying and in which I was most successful. To resolve a dispute without the emotional and monetary cost of trial is a wonderful thing."

Practice Areas
  • All Types of Personal Injury
  • Class Actions
  • Complex Business/Contractual
  • Construction Defect
  • Elder Abuse
  • Employment
  • Insurance Coverage/Bad Faith
  • Intellectual Property
  • Professional Malpractice
  • Real Estate/HOA
Hobbies & Interests

In his spare time, Judge Pressman has a passion for traveling to exotic places, music, theatre, opera, and exploring natural parks and beaches.

Legal Career
  • Neutral, Judicate West (2017-Present)
  • Judge, Superior Court, San Diego (2002-2017)
  • Civil Independent Calendar Judge (2010-2017)
  • Executive Committee of Court (2008-2014)
  • Supervising & Assisting Judge, North County Branch (2006-2010)
  • Criminal & Civil, North County Branch (2002-10)
  • Partner, Kolodny & Pressman, APC, San Diego (1983-2001)
  • Partner, Hadfield, Van Berolding, Graubart & Pressman, San Francisco (1972-1982)
Education & Professional Affiliations
  • J.D., Hastings College of Law (1972)
  • B. A., University of California Berkeley (1969)
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers, ABTL (1992 – Present) Executive Committee/Board of Directors (2012-Present)
  • Settlement Conference Dynamics, Pepperdine University School of Law/Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution
  • Lopardo American Inn of Court, Member (2002-10)
  • ABOTA, Member (1999-Present)
Achievements & Awards
  • AV/Preeminent rating with Martindale Hubbell
  • In 2017, Judge Pressman was awarded Judge of the Year by both Consumer Attorneys of San Diego and San Diego Defense Lawyers. He is the only judge in history to receive this honor from both plaintiff and defense attorneys in the same year.
  • Bernard Witkin Award, San Diego Law Library Foundation (2015)
  • Outstanding Trial Lawyer, San Diego Trial Lawyers (1992)
Below is a sampling of the various matters Hon. Joel M. Pressman, Ret. presided over on the bench, tried as an attorney, or handled as a neutral.


  • Aviation catastrophic wrongful death in which two private planes crash, allegedly caused by control tower negligence. All cases were brought together and resolved.

Consumer Class Action

  • Consumer class action alleging violation of zip code statute requiring retailers to refrain from requesting a zip code until the transaction is finished.
  • Consumer class action law student alleged fraud and misrepresentation by the school in publishing post-graduate employment figures.
  • Nationwide class action. Plaintiff alleged failure to properly warn consumer of cold therapy devices. Improper product warning and design allegedly caused sever harm to users of the product.
  • Consumer protection class action litigation.

Construction Breach Of Contract

  • Lawsuit for breach of construction contract alleging non-payment for as-built extras to contract.


  • Employment discrimination involving public employee.

Wrongful Termination

  • Wrongful termination lawsuit alleging discrimination and failure to accommodate.

Public Policy

  • Mandamus action involving interpretation of Waste Management Act and a landfill.

Medical Malpractice

  • Medical malpractice alleging significant damages arising from medical negligence and supervisor.
  • Medical malpractice involving minor.


  • Class action by tenants of mobile home park owned by a city. This lawsuit lasted for ten years. Tenants alleged that they were entitled to relocation damages from the city.

Catastrophic Injury

  • Plaintiff injured while attending concert during which disc jockey leapt from the stage and landed on plaintiff causing traumatic spinal injury.
Judge Pressman was thoroughly prepared, and extremely forthright in his evaluations of the parties' positions, and of the practical considerations the parties needed to factor into their decision-making. This was a difficult case, which I thought had no chance of settling. I am deeply impressed with the job Judge Pressman did.
- Attorney on a Civil Rights Matter
Judge Pressman established a great rapport with my client, he listened, and he properly discovered the motivations of each party.
- Attorney on a Real Property/Landlord Tenant Dispute
You picked up a really good jurist here. I had the pleasure of having several large exposure business cases the Judge and I was an out of towner. He demeanor was firm but friendly. He worked the cases hard and tried his best to grapple with all of the obtuse concepts we threw at him. I only wish the Judge Pressman would clone himself and have his clones continue to try cases. He is at the top of my list for Southern California mediators and arbitrators. Congratulations on snagging him!
- Orange County Attorney
Judge Pressman was great, as always.
- Attorney on a Personal Injury Slip & Fall Matter
The mediator was very knowledgeable, provided several options on the potential outcomes, and was of assistance in coming up with creative resolutions.
- Attorney on a Landlord/Tenant Dispute
As always, Judge Pressman has the demeanor and experience that make the mediation process effective.
- Founding Partner of a Firm Based in San Diego
While [his] experience as a trial lawyer and judge was obviously instrumental in bringing the parties together to arrive at a compromise, I was most impressed with the kindness, compassion, patience, and respect that you showed to our client. I am glad that I never have to go against [him] as a lawyer. I am disappointed that I never had the opportunity to try a case in [his] courtroom. But, I look forward to mediating many cases with [him] in the future.
- Attorney on an Employment/Discrimination Dispute
This was our first time using Judge Pressman as a mediator, and we were all very impressed. He knew the case before we started and worked hard all day. A huge success.
- Attorney on a Professional Malpractice-Legal Dispute
Hon. Joel M. Pressman, Ret.
Based in San Diego | Available in All of California
Case Manager: MaryAnn Campbell