Judge Denton was a full-time civil jury trial lawyer for 26 years prior to serving as a San Diego Superior Court Judge from 2001 until 2013. While his tenure on the bench, he served as an Independent Calendar Judge for both the Civil and Family Law Divisions and as the Assistant Supervising Judge of the Civil Division. As an Independent Calendar trial judge, he was responsible for managing a running caseload of up to 1000 civil cases of all types including complex litigation matters. He presided over law and motion, case management and trial of catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death cases, complex real estate litigation, class actions, business, and commercial disputes, medical and legal malpractice matters, employment and harassment cases, as well as insurance bad faith matters. He was known as a "lawyer's judge" and was highly regarded for his pragmatic, fair, and balanced courtroom management style.

Since joining Judicate West, Judge Denton has handled numerous mediations, arbitrations, and discovery master assignments on cases involving complex insurance coverage, subrogation, legal malpractice, real estate, and virtually every type of civil matter from cyber-stalking to catastrophic death and injury. He is best known for his energetic and pragmatic approach to problem-solving as well as his tenacious drive to resolve difficult cases. Many attorneys comment that his perspectives as an experienced judge and litigator for over 40 years bring a valuable combination of perspective and judgment to the mediation process.

Practice Areas
  • Aviation
  • Business/Commercial
  • Employment
  • Insurance Bad Faith
  • Personal Injury
  • Professional Malpractice
  • Real Estate
Hobbies & Interests

Judge Denton frequently enjoys international travel with his wife, who is an accomplished litigator, deep sea fishing, running, skiing, golf, and coordinating the activity, school, and athletic schedules for his two young adopted foster children, who are 15 & 16. Despite being a "weekend golfer," Judge Denton is lucky and has two "holes in one" and three "eagles" to his credit. He spent most of his youth overseas and went to high school in Berlin, Germany arriving in 1961 as the "Wall" was being built. He also enjoys spending his free time with his older daughter, who is a former Federal Prosecutor in Washington. D.C., now in private practice in San Diego, and a son who is a Microsoft software engineer team leader in Los Angeles.

Legal Career
  • Neutral, Judicate West (2013-Present)
  • Judge, San Diego Superior Court (2001 - 2013)
  • Civil Independent Calendar Judge, General and Complex Cases (2004-2013)
  • Family Law Independent Calendar Judge (2001-2004)
  • Partner, Ludecke, Denton, & Bunn (1978 - 2001)
  • Associate Attorney, Ludecke and Andreos (1975 - 1978)
Education & Professional Affiliations
  • JD, University of San Diego School of Law (1975)
  • BA, University of California Santa Barbara, Environmental Biology (1972)
  • Mediating the Litigated Case, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine University School of Law (2013)
  • San Diego County Judges Association, President (2007-08)
  • California Judges Association, Member (2001-13)
  • ABOTA, SD Chapter President (2001), Board of Direcctors (1998-02), Member (1992 - Present)
  • Cal-ABOTA, Board of Directors (2001)
  • ABTL, Judicial Advisory Council (2009 to Present), Member (2007 to Present)
  • San Diego County Bar Association, VP (1994), Board of Directors (1991-1994), Member (1975 to Present)
  • San Diego Inn of Court, President (1994), Board of Directors (1991 - 1994)
  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego & California, President SD (1986), CA Board (1986-91, 95 & 97)
  • Inns of Court: Clifford B. Wallace, President (2010-11) Founding Member 2005 - Present, William B Enright (2001-03), Oliver Wendell Holmes (2003-05)
Achievements & Awards
  • Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame (2014) Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.
  • David S. Casey Trial Lawyer of the Year (1991) Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.
  • Distinguished Alumni of the Year (1995) University of San Diego School of Law.
  • Outstanding Trial Lawyer Awards (1997, 1981, 1982, 1991, 1999, & 2001) Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.
  • Lifetime Accomplishment & Dedication Award (2013) San Diego County Bar Association and San Diego Family Law Bar Association.
  • Outstanding Service Award (2005) North County Certified Family Law Specialists
  • Outstanding Service Award for Special Events (2000) Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.
  • Presidential Award of Merit: Establishing Excellence in Legal Education (1992) San Diego Trial Lawyers Association.
  • Special Commendation: Leadership in the Protection of the Civil Justice System (1988) San Diego Trial Lawyers Association.
Below is a sampling of the various matters Hon. Steven R. Denton, Ret. presided over on the bench, tried as an attorney, or handled as a neutral.


  • Religious and Disability Discrimination against religion based non-governmental shelter provider with major constitutional and governmental grant issues.


  • Single Engine Aircraft Crash against airport operator for injuries to pilot and passenger.

Consumer Class Action

  • TCPA class action for "wrong number class" resolved as individual case.
  • Small Restaurant Chain-Gift Card-Failure To Pay in Cash-on demand where balance less that $10.


  • Breach of Contract Business Brokerage Sale and Non-Compete litigation between former business partners.
  • Breach of Contract litigation between two large charities following dissolution of long term mutual fund raising program.
  • Patent, IP Dispute and Breach of Contract dispute brought by founder of profitable growing phone re-cycling business against later investors.
  • Business and Contract/Fraud between LLC and dissolved partnership over developer fees and ownership percentages.


  • Breach of Contract and Fraud in Inducement to contract for purchase of restaurants.
  • Business Fraud & Misrepresentation claims against overseas bank in complex investments in warrants in a fund of hedge funds.

Construction Breach Of Contract

  • Construction lot grading caused landslide damaging adjoining property with underlying settlement and assignment of claim against defendant.


  • Wrongful Termination Disability Discrimination alleged by former sales person with hearing impairment.

Wage and Hour

  • Wrongful Termination - Director of medical facility alleged retaliation for laboratory billing irregularities.

Wage and Hour Class Action

  • Plaintiff asserted that his long term employer discriminated against older workers in the organization and that the reduction in force was used simply to get rid of older and more expensive workers. Plaintiff asserted his action in a class action, however, the court enforced the arbitration agreement. Defendant asserted that a comprehensive settlement and release agreement supported by substantial consideration barred the claim. Plaintiff claimed the release was invalid because it was fraudulently induced as defendant did not disclose its hidden agenda. The case was settled on an individual basis for a confidential amount subject to court approval.

Wrongful Termination

  • Wrongful Termination & Disability Discrimination alleged by executive director of hospice and palliative care company.
  • Wage & Hour claims by multiple company employees.
  • Sexual Harassment claimed by employee against supervisor where case resolves for cash and agreement to terminate employment.
  • Assistant Manager in a retail store worked for 13 years and was terminated. He alleged violation of public policy and retaliation for reporting internal theft that could have some impact on the public. Defendant asserted that the Plaintiff having worked with good reviews for 11 years performed poorly over many months under a new manager and that his termination was unrelated to any public policy related cause.
  • Plaintiff was a training employee of an ambulance company and asserted claims of constructive termination, discrimination based on gender, gender based pay discrimination, class claims of wage and hour violations for "off the clock" required work along with PAGA penalties. The parties were able to resolve the matter to accommodate financial limitations of the defendant by narrowing the class definition and the look back for those claims. The individual claims of the plaintiff were separately resolved.

Family Law Issues

  • Family Law- Dissolution long term marriage where value of husband's business was disputed.

Marital Dissolution

  • Post Marital Dissolution dispute over disposition of valuable real property, disputed interpretation of right to purchase in judgment.

Bad Faith

  • Insurance Bad Faith & Coverage Dispute of insurance services company against sub-agent's fraudulent conduct.


  • Insurance Company asserts fraudulent billing practices against physician for illegal billing practices.


  • Fire Damage Cause and Origin Dispute between multiple insurance companies as to apportionment of loss.

General IP

  • Intellectual Property litigation brought against former CEO by manufacturing business.

Medical Malpractice

  • Medical Malpractice and failure to supervise patient staying in hospital who escaped hospital and was later found dead in the elements.
  • Medical Malpractice alleged in serious orthopedic hip and leg surgeries.
  • Medical Malpractice against two doctors where surgery caused severe infection.
  • Medical Malpractice where claimant alleged ligation of common bile duct and artery during cholecystectomy.
  • Medical Malpractice Case where back surgery led to vascular collapse and leg amputation and a related workers compensation case.
  • Medical Malpractice case of child whose skull growth abnormality went undiagnosed for several years causing progressive brain compression, symptoms, and disability.

Prof Malpractice Accounting

  • Accountant malpractice results in IRS levies and loss of plaintiff's property and resultant deficiency judgment against plaintiff.

Professional Malpractice Legal

  • Fraudulent Transfer of major business assets to avoid execution on multi-million dollar judgment and associated legal malpractice action.
  • Legal Malpractice/Breach of Fiduciary Duty claim where attorney received interest in large corporation.
  • Legal Malpractice and malicious prosecution case where plaintiff asserted loss of inheritance.
  • Legal Malpractice claim by former PI client who asserted that lawyer failed to address mild traumatic brain injury prior to settlement of case.

Breach Of Contract

  • Title Insurance company failed to defend and indemnity against claimed title defect not disclosed but known to real estate broker.
  • Real property title dispute involving family members contesting ownership of home and continued residence of aged mother.


  • Class action by tenants against owner of many apartment buildings alleging illegal liquidated damage clause and illegal deposit return provisions in leases.

Real Property

  • Residential Real Estate Sale Fraud claimed for severe rat infestation and extermination causing need for major structural reconstruction of home. Failure to disclose.
  • Commercial Real Property disputed implied easements for sewer and parking interrupted high rise development on property.
  • Lease dispute with downtown deli in a building. Issue over ability to open a coffee shop. Parties agreed to work on new lease to settle entire case and allow the coffee shop to open.

Business Torts

  • Consumer Class Action on behalf of tenants of motels evicted from rooms every 30 days in violation of tenant's protection statute.

Catastrophic Injury

  • State and contractor claim by victim of catastrophic limb amputating injury.


  • Cyberstalking case where individual used website postings to solicit visitors to unsuspecting people.

Elder Abuse

  • Elder Abuse Wrongful Death, elderly victim strangled because not restrained from being wedged between bed, table and wall.

Maritime Law

  • Jones Act Seaman's injury case against operator of yacht tending service for disputed injuries.

PI Auto

  • Wage & Hour Class Action and PAGA claims on behalf of workers in restaurants owned by defendant.
  • Elderly woman was rear-ended at a stop light by a semi-truck. Collision was at low speed and property damage minimal. Plaintiff had underlying and long standing cervical and lumbar disc disease. She had extensive conservative care following the collision and a fusion in the cervical spine. There were large areas of impeachment of claimant in the deposition about prior medical care and her underlying spinal problems.

Premises Liability

  • Commercial Premises, automatic door malfunction causes partial finger amputation to customer and resulting work disability.
  • Plaintiff, self represented, was a superintendent on a large remodel job for a general contractor for a well-known gym franchise. Tight schedule and a lot of last minute work occurred, and mold was discovered, torn out and replaced. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant failed to properly address mold and asserts that he incurred injuries as a direct result of the conditions resulting in a below-the-knee amputation. Liability disputed.

Product Liability

  • Vehicle Manufacturer Rollover Product Liability design defect against major overseas manufacturer resulted in C6-7 quadriplegia.

Wrongful Death

  • Wrongful Death in Rehabilitation Facility - alleged that administration of medication and failure to monitor condition caused death.
  • Wrongful Death by adult children against mother's husband for causing her suicide.
  • MVA Wrongful Death and Injury case where driver fell asleep and killed pedestrian in crosswalk with related criminal restitution issues.
He got right down to business and did not waste a minute of time. Both my client and I appreciated that.
- Attorney on a Personal Injury Auto Case
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you so much for your amazing hard work and dedication on this difficult case. The fact of settlement here is directly attributable to you, your single-mindedness, your tenacity, your brilliant insights and beautifully reasoned analyses. I have been doing this a long time and I have never had a Mediator stay as completely focused and engaged in a case as you have been in this one. Stated simply, this doesn’t get done without you.
- Attorney on a Personal Injury Auto Case
Denton took the time to understand the many complex questions/ issues of law and fact, so as to create a viable and acceptable mediator's proposal after the initially unsuccessful session.
- Attorney on a Complex Employment Wrongful Termination Case
He was our mediator in a substantial and complicated lawsuit against my client. With Judge Denton’s help, we were able to resolve the dispute, saving the parties at least six months of further litigation (to say nothing of the costs involved).
- Attorney on a Commercial Insolvency & Debt Case
Mediator was efficient, straight to the point, and knew the issues.
- Attorney on an Employment Labor Code Case
It was great mediating with you on this and I will certainly let people know the great experience we had with you, which echoes many sentiments as I heard of you by word of mouth as well!
- Attorney on an Employment/Disability Case
[Judge Denton] understood the issues, worked doggedly to get to resolution.
- Attorney on a Business Transactional Case
We were impressed by Judge Denton's approach, efficiency and preparedness.
- Attorney, Orange County, CA
Hon. Steven R. Denton, Ret.
Based in San Diego | Available in All of California
Case Manager: Calina Gercke