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Trial Attorney, Judge, Mediator, Arbitrator & Referee, Hon. David B. Moon, Jr. (Retired) Goes The Extra Mile, Yet Still Settles Disputes Efficiently and Economically With Judicate West

“I regard myself as a full service mediator. I am there to settle the case, so I put maximum effort into solving the problem. I will make follow up calls and I welcome particularly challenging cases that attorneys have almost given up hope of ever settling,” says Hon. David B. Moon, Jr. (Retired). “I’m available as a mediator and arbitrator, or to serve as a CCP 638 referee (by stipulation), a CCP 639 referee (court appointed), Article 6 temporary judge (with rights to appeal) or case evaluator. I specialize in trust and decedent estate administration, real estate, eminent domain, homeowners association disputes, general business matters, CEQA cases, professional malpractice and title insurance,” he adds.
For Moon, the desire to become a judge emerged early on in his years as a trial attorney. “I admired and respected the state and federal trial judges before whom I litigated many civil and criminal cases. I knew my temperament fit the job. I wanted to become competent in other legal areas, such as medical malpractice, eminent domain and probate.” Moon was initially appointed to the San Diego Municipal Court where he served in all departments, including Presiding Judge. He also spent time as Assigned Judge for the Court of Appeal 4th District, Division One, before becoming a Superior Court Judge where he worked in all departments, including Supervising, Probate, Adoptions and Independent Calendar, where he also presided over civil settlements. When he decided to retire he says, “It was a natural progression for me to gravitate to mediation.”
With years of experience as a trial attorney and decades as the ultimate decision maker, Judge Moon welcomed the opportunity to put his wealth of expertise to use in settling cases more efficiently and economically through mediation. Specifically he says, “I am facilitative, evaluative and pro-active —in that order—as the circumstances demand.”

For Judge Moon, going the extra mile ironically often means taking short cuts. To that end, his facilitative approach to settling disputes means cutting to the chase wherever possible. Using analogies to his passion for fly fishing, Judge Moon will often set the stage for the parties by using imagery, which conveys complex concepts in easy to understand terms. “If you (plaintiff) cast a heavy streamer into the top of a pool, the trout (insurance company) is going to be spooked and gone in a flash. As a plaintiff you are not here merely to fish (massage the claim), but to catch a fish (get the money). Don’t scare away the fish by making an outrageous demand at the outset.”
Other ways that Judge Moon invokes short cuts to expedite the process, and save money, while affording the parties swift resolution to the psychological stressors, seem simple but are extraordinarily effective. For example, Judge Moon will often use a white board for diagramming, creating flow charts, charting damages, listing assets and more. “Studies have shown that an overwhelming percentage of what we perceive is visual. If I can write something on a board with a marker, people get it. They may not agree with the numbers initially, but they get the concept. It’s a matter of distilling the information in black and white,” he says.
Judge Moon has also found reason to pick up the phone during mediations and speak directly with professionals and potential witnesses relevant to a case to obtain information necessary to resolve issues. In probate cases in particular, when there are disputes over estate assets, he’s found that siblings may have very different ideas regarding what the decedent had been told by a financial advisor as to how trust assets should be handled after death. “Why wouldn’t I short-cut the system and go directly to the source in question and get right to the heart of it?” Judge Moon says, “My goal is to expedite the process.”


He is also open to inviting an expert witness to appear at mediation to give both sides information which would otherwise involve costly deposition testimony. Though it may be unusual, there are certain types of cases which warrant the attendance of key witnesses. “In eminent domain cases, it is essential. We have to have the appraiser there,” he explains.

“Parties are entitled to have the opportunity made possible to them to settle their cases without a mediator twisting their arms,” Judge Moon says. To put it another way, Judge Moon prefers to be more like a teacher providing exercises or assignments as opposed to a dictator handing down mandates. “Wherever possible, I believe in helping the parties work it out without their feeling like I’m telling them what to do,” he says.
To accomplish this, he makes sure to keep both sides engaged during the process. As such, he often gives each side a task to work on while he is meeting with the other side. In many cases this will include a “reality check” where Judge Moon will request that parties answer a series of questions that range from “What do you think the other side is willing to give/take to settle the case?” to direct questions that achieve the objective of allowing parties to see for themselves what may be in store for them if they do not settle the case.

Judge Moon has asked the parties to write their answers to questions such as: ‘What is the likelihood the claimant can establish liability and causation?’ He also requests answers to questions such as: ‘What do you think a judge or jury may actually award in the case?’ and ‘What do you think the cost for attorney fees may be if the case goes to verdict or judgment?’ In this way, Judge Moon is able to engage the parties in successful resolution by allowing them to see for themselves the consequences of failing to reach a settlement. Moreover, by employing these types of strategies, Judge Moon has found that the honesty and candor of the participants enables him to “frame a bracket or range of value for settlement.”

Judge Moon becomes pro-active in disputes as the situation warrants. “Finding out the real agenda of each party is an art,” he says. “There is no script for how to do this, but you still have to read people successfully and you have to establish trust,” he adds. For his part, Judge Moon particularly enjoys cases that have been deemed unresolvable, often by both parties and their respective attorneys. “As a sitting judge, I developed an expertise in, and a reputation for, settling difficult cases,” he says.


“When an attorney says to me, ‘Judge, this case is not going to settle,’ that becomes a challenge for me. I enjoy being brought difficult cases. Even when both sides are pessimistic, I’ve found a mediator’s optimistic attitude frequently produces results,” he says.
As far as the future, Judge Moon is quite happy in his role as the ‘go-to-guy’ for probate and trust mediations. While he has never kept track of the specific number of cases he’s handled in his 13 years as a full time mediator and arbitrator, suffice to say he has helped thousands achieve resolution. He also has plenty of business and fraud cases flowing in and he anticipates the arrival of more eminent domain cases as well. “I used to do a lot of condemnation cases, but then the state nearly went bankrupt and could no longer buy land to build freeways, so they’ve slowed down for awhile,” Moon says with just a hint of a chuckle. “I expect to be seeing more again soon.”
Personally, he’s incredibly content as well, though he admits that his wife Lynn would prefer he cut down on work and spend more time “doing the important things in life.” “I’ve been hooked on the law since I took a prep school course focusing on the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. I enjoy doing cases and I love legal issues. I really, really enjoy what I do. Preventing parties from spending exorbitant amounts of money when their cases can be resolved, is rewarding.” Aside from fly fishing, in his spare time Judge Moon plays tennis, swims, plays guitar, walks his dogs, vacations with his wife and visits daughters and grandsons.

Hon. David B. Moon, Jr. (Retired)
(858) 759-6119
Judicate West
402 W. Broadway - 24th Floor
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 814-1966

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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