Neutral Profile



  • Available in Orange County, All of California
  • Available for Mediation, Arbitration, and Private Judging assignments


Judge Smith retired from the Orange County Superior Court after twenty years of distinguished service. He presided over a broad range of civil cases including family law where he served for the last 9 years and spent 3 years as a Supervising Judge of the department, Presiding Judge of the court's appellate division, and a special master for the Commission on Judicial Performance. Judge Smith, known for his scholarly approach to judicial decision-making, is the author of more than a dozen published legal articles and has been honored by several bar associations. Judge Smith has presided over a broad range of civil cases, including personal injury, professional negligence, employment discrimination, real property and business disputes.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Smith was successful in the practice of real estate, environmental, and business transactional law. He is a frequent lecturer and panelist in the areas of family law, civil procedure, and legal ethics. He brings his commitment to excellence and service to his role as a mediator, arbitrator, and private judge. He commented, "I am painfully aware of the high cost, both financial and emotional, of protracted litigation. I am energized by the opportunity to help litigants reach an earlier and less costly resolution."


  • Family Law
  • Personal Injury
  • Professional Malpractice
  • Employment
  • Environmental
  • Real Property
  • Business/Contractual

Experience Summary

Notable case types Judge Smith oversaw as a superior court judge as well as cases handled in private practice

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Hobbies & Interests

In his spare time, Judge Smith is a baseball fan, Harley-Davidson enthusiast, and a traveler.


"It was a privilege having you mediate this case for us. I was very thankful for your skill, compassion and management over the mediation process which was pivotal in assisting us to reach resolution. You stayed with us in the late hours beyond the call of duty to get the job done and settlement would have not been possible without your assistance."
- Attorney on a Family Law Matter

"[He was] able to get another very difficult case settled. We remain extremely satisfied and impressed by [his] skills as a mediator. [He has] a true gift! "
- Attorney on a business/contractual dispute

"It is my pleasure to recommend Honorable Judge Clay Smith. I just finished a successful mediation with Judge Smith in which he was instrumental in reaching a global settlement of a dissolution case involving challenging custody and financial issues. After having appeared in front of Judge Smith for years in family court I have developed the utmost respect for his wisdom, calm presence and compassion. He truly cares. We are fortunate to have him more readily available now to resolve our cases in private mediation as opposed to through often times toxic litigation in court."
- Attorney on a Family Law Matter

"Judge Smith is a very welcome addition to the available neutrals to preside over family law matters. Your staff was very accommodating, and your facility is very conducive to achieving a settlement. I look forward to future engagements of Judge Smith."
- Attorney on a Family Law Matter

Experience Summary


Judge Smith's judicial tenure included nine years on the family law panel, including three as supervising judge. He has presided over hundreds of family law trials, request for orders hearings, settlement conferences, and related hearings.


As the assistant general counsel and officer of an NYSE corporation, Judge Smith was directly responsible for the planning and documentation of hundreds of significant corporate and real estate transactions. As a judge, he conducted numerous jury and bench trials resulting from commercial transactions. His deep experience with both the business and legal aspects of commercial transactions give him a superb background for the mediation or arbitration of related disputes.


Judge Smith has presided over numerous jury trials resulting from accidents causing personal injuries and alleged medical negligence. Several of these trials were the result of catastrophic injuries or death. His experience includes both cases resulting in multi-million dollar verdicts, as well as defense verdicts. His background in this case type is one of absolute neutrality.


Judge Smith has years of experience in the area of environmental law. This includes overseeing environmental assessments prior to the sale or purchase of large real estate portfolios and the implementation of remediation plans. He has also directly handled both the prosecution and defense of many cost recovery actions involving both private PRP's and government agencies.

Legal Career

  • Judge, Superior Court of Orange County (1998-2017)
  • Judge, Municipal Court of Orange County (1997-1998)
  • Arbitrator, Orange County Superior Court (1983-1997)
  • Probation Monitor, State Bar of California (1983-1997)
  • Assistant General Counsel, Catellus Development Corporation (1988-1997)
  • Attorney, Santa Fe Pacific Corporation (1982-1988)
  • Attorney, Rhodes, Kendall and Harrington (1980-1982)
  • Attorney, O’Melveny & Meyers (1978-1982)

Education & Professional Affiliations

  • J.D., University of Utah, Salt Lake City (1977)
  • B. A., Brigham Young University, Provo. UT (1974)
  • Adjunct Professor, Western State University School of Law (Secured Land Transactions, Remedies, Commercial Leasing)
  • Instructor, Fullerton College (Introduction to Legal Studies, Criminal Law & Procedure)
  • Mediation: The Art of Facilitating Settlement, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution (2006)

Achievements & Awards

  • Member, Civil Law Education Committee (2003-2008)
  • Member, Judicial Service Advisory Committee (2001-2007)
  • Planning Commissioner, City of Brea (1997)
  • "Stepping Up to Family Law," Orange County Lawyer, 2008
  • "Watchmen on the Wall – Unsung Heroes of the Rule of Law," Orange County Lawyer, 2008
  • "Intersections Along the High Road," Association of Business Trial Lawyers Report, Fall 2004
  • "A Lonely Decision," Orange County Lawyer, December 1999
  • "Chronical of a New Judge," Orange County Lawyer, June 1997
  • Chair, Open Space Task Force, City of Brea (1993)
  • "Epting v. Utah, Misapplication of Governmental Immunity." 1976 Utah Law Review, 187

Legal Experience

  • Family Law
  • Personal Injury
  • Professional Malpractice
  • Employment
  • Environmental
  • Real Property
  • Business/Contractual

Recent Representative Cases