Education & Background
Jim graduated from Occidental College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1970 with a major in Political Science and an emphasis in Urban Studies. Jim obtained his J.D. degree from Cornell Law School in 1973. He recently returned to further his education, enrolling in an LLM Program in Transnational Commercial Practice that is a collaborative effort of Boston University Law School and law schools in Hungary and Poland. Jim was awarded this degree by faculty of Lazarski University in Warsaw, Poland in July, 2017. He found the exposure to international law to be intellectually challenging and the interaction with other lawyers from literally around the world (5 continents and 15 countries) to be a gratifying experience and personally rewarding.
He began his law practice as a litigation associate at the Los Angeles law firm of Jackson and Goodstein. There he specialized in the defense of securities and real estate fraud matters. Jim moved to the Central Coast and joined Andre, Morris & Buttery in 1977. Jim was instrumental in opening the firm’s Santa Maria office in 2002.
Jim has tried more than 50 civil cases to conclusion, including 20 civil jury cases, and handled numerous arbitrations before AAA and JAMS. The litigation matters that Jim has handled cover a wide spectrum and include complex toxic tort litigation, boundary disputes, easement questions, judicial foreclosures, partnership disputes, real estate fraud, corporate succession and liquidation matters, multi-generational partitions of ranch properties in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and adversarial will and trust contests.
The following is a representative selection of the significant cases Jim has handled, either alone or with the support of other members of the firm:
- Successfully prosecuted a judicial foreclosure in a complex series of cases which resulted in a deficiency judgment for his client in excess of $58 million. He then assisted lawyers from the firm’s Business Transactions and Real Estate Practice Group to accomplish the smooth transfer of ownership and sale of the assets acquired from the judgment debtor, including resort property in the Palm Springs area.
- Coordinated the successful defense of a class action suit filed by residents alleging health injuries from a state-ordered clean-up of an oil pipeline.
- Successfully defended a 5-month jury trial against claims of unfair business practices brought by a large group of tenants against the owner of a mobile home park; obtained a complete defense verdict, recovering over a half million dollars for the client in reimbursement of attorneys fees.
- Succeeded in limiting damages in an alleged $5 million oil leak lawsuit to just $50,000 total after a 3-week jury trial.
- Successfully represented developer in a CEQA action filed by neighbors of a proposed hotel project. Minor deficiencies in the City’s process were ordered to be remedied administratively, and construction of the hotel has been completed.
- Represented local rancher in complex partition involving several thousand acres of farm and ranch land and multiple branches of the family. Case was tried in Santa Barbara Superior Court, defended on appeal and then mediated to a conclusion by dividing ranches among family members.
- Successfully defended a client against claims from her stepson that her husband had entered into an oral contract before his death to transfer half interest in a vineyard and winery valued at several million dollars.
- Sought review of a county’s demand for information in connection with a rent review application. The action resulted in a published Court of Appeal decision now frequently cited as precedence against government intrusion in personal financial affairs. See King v. Mobile Home Rent Review Board of San Luis Obispo County (1989) 216 Cal. App. 3d 1532.
Business & Community
Jim is admitted to practice in all of the courts of the State of California as well as the Northern, Central and Eastern Districts of California of the United States District Courts and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Since 2010, he has been an active member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, ABOTA.
Jim has also found the time to teach American law at universities in Eastern Europe. In 2012 he taught at the Law School at the University of Szeged in Hungary, and in 2016 he taught at the National University School of International Relations in Odessa, Ukraine.
Over the last four decades Jim has donated his time to the boards of directors of several non-profit corporations in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. He is currently on the Board of SMOOTH Transportation in Santa Maria.