Judge Burns joined Judicate West following 27 years of distinguished service as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, including two years as Chief Judge. Known for his extensive litigation experience, he is widely regarded as an outstanding trial lawyer, an effective settlement judge, and a scrupulous and efficient trial judge. As a lawyer, he tried more than 150 cases to jury verdict and argued 40 cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He spent the first several years of his judicial career as a civil settlement judge, helping parties settle hundreds of cases. As a trial judge, he presided over more than 300 federal jury trials including high-profile cases involving elected officials, complex business and tort litigation, and multi-district and class action cases. He also supervised receivership actions, including a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme case in which investors eventually recouped over 95% of their investments.

Throughout his judicial career, he served as a visiting trial judge in civil and criminal cases nationwide, including in New York City, Tampa, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Tucson, Boise, Coeur D'Alene, and Salt Lake City. He also sat by designation with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, authoring eight reported appellate decisions. Before taking the bench, he was engaged in the corporate sector, serving as Corporate Secretary and a member of the Board of Directors of a publicly traded company. His corporate and business experience includes shareholder securities actions, banking and regulatory enforcement, and employment litigation.

Judge Burns views mediation as assisted negotiation. “Preparation, patience, and persistence are the keys,” he notes. “By listening, questioning, and understanding the importance of pacing, a mediator focuses attention on the important aspects of a dispute and helps parties achieve a resolution.“

Practice Areas
  • Business/Contractual including Banking and Corporate/Fiduciary Obligations
  • Civil Rights
  • Class Actions
  • Employment
  • Insurance
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Personal Injury
  • Real Estate
  • Trademark/Copyright
Hobbies & Interests

Judge Burns enjoys traveling worldwide with his wife. He also loves college and professional football.

Legal Career
  • Full-time Neutral, Judicate West (2024-Present)
  • U.S District Court Judge, Southern District of California (2003-2024); Chief District Judge (2019-2021)
  • U.S. Magistrate Judge, Southern District of California (1997-2003)
  • Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California (1985-1997); Deputy U.S. Attorney (1993-1996); Chief of Violent Crimes (1990-1993); Assistant Chief, Criminal Division (1989-1990)
  • Deputy District Attorney, County of San Diego (1979-1985)
  • Director and Corporate Secretary, Bank of Commerce (1994-1997)
  • Instructor, San Diego State University, School of Public Administration (1990-1997)
Education & Professional Affiliations
  • J.D., University of San Diego (1979)
  • B.A., Point Loma College (1976)
  • U.S. Judicial Conference, Committee on Intercircuit Assignments (2017-2022)
  • Federal Bar Association, San Diego Chapter, Board of Governors (2012-2021)
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers, San Diego Chapter, Board of Governors (2001-2003; 2018-2021)
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers, San Diego Chapter, Judicial Advisory Board (2021-Present)
  • American Board of Trial Advocates (2001-Present)
  • American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow (1997-Present)
  • Enright Inn of Court, Founding Member and Master (1990-2003)
  • Louis Welsh Inn of Court (1983-1984)
Achievements & Awards
  • Co-authored the Ninth Circuit Criminal Handbook, now in its 14th edition
  • Outstanding Jurist Award, San Diego County Bar Association (2022)
  • Exemplary Service Award, Federal Bar Association, San Diego Chapter (2022)
  • Dedicated Service Award, Federal Bar Association, San Diego Chapter (2021)
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, University of San Diego School of Law (2019)
  • Judicial Service Award, Thomas Jefferson School of Law Alumni Association (2016)
  • Distinguished Achievement Award, Point Loma Nazarene University (2006)
  • “Judge of the Year”, San Diego Consumer Trial Lawyers (2002)
  • Faculty Mentoring Award, San Diego State University (1997)
  • Director’s Award for Superior Performance, U.S. Department of Justice (1991)
Below is a sampling of the various matters Hon. Larry A. Burns, Ret. presided over on the bench, tried as an attorney, or handled as a neutral.

Securities Class Action

  • As a lawyer and Director of a publicly traded company, he coordinated the defense of securities class action litigation with outside legal counsel and assisted in preparing for government regulatory examinations and responding to compliance inquiries.

Civil Rights

  • As a District Judge, he adjudicated and presided over numerous jury trials in cases alleging police misconduct, use of excessive force, deliberate indifference to incarcerated detainees and inmates, racial and sexual discrimination, and violations of free speech and religious liberty guarantees. Representative cases include Abel Ramirez, et al, v. Jordan Reddish, et al., case no. 18-cv-00176-LAB (D. Utah Apr. 23, 2020) (alleged constitutional violations of immigrants’ rights); Bryan v. MacPherson, 630 F.3d 805 (9th Cir. 2010) (qualified immunity for taser use); Ortega v. San Diego Police Dep't., 669 Fed. Appx. 922, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 19349 (9th Cir. 2016) (fatal police shooting); and Acosta v. Hill, 504 F.3d 1323 (9th Cir. 2007) (alleged unlawful seizure and excessive force).
  • Sitting by assignment with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, he authored an opinion applying First Amendment principles to adverse action taken by a school board against a fellow board member. Blair v. Bethel Sch. Dist., 608 F.3d 540 (9th Cir. 2010) (free speech claim).
  • As a Magistrate Judge, he successfully mediated over one hundred cases involving alleged violations of the Americans with Disability Act and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act. He also helped settle prisoner lawsuits over conditions of confinement.

Class Actions

  • As a District Judge, he adjudicated dozens of class action disputes alleging labor law violations, COVID relief fraud, defective products and products liability, data and privacy breaches, false marketing and advertising, securities fraud, and antitrust violations. Representative cases include Van Patten v. Vertical Fitness Group, LLC, 847 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2017) (Telephone Consumer Protection Act), and Lucas v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 217 F. Supp. 3d 1200 (S.D. Cal. 2016) (dismissal for false claims by class representative). By special assignment, he presided over a jury trial in Lennox v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., case no. 09-cv-13744-LAB (M.D. Fla. 2015), one of the Engle progeny class action tobacco cases. He also adjudicated Multi-District Litigation (MDL) cases, including In re Musical Instruments & Equip. Antitrust Litig., 798 F.3d 1186 (9th Cir. 2015).

Complex Civil Matters

  • As a District Judge, he adjudicated and presided over jury trials involving consumer class actions, government and business contract litigation, trade secret and arbitration clause disputes, civil fraud, securities litigation, Qui Tam, and whistleblower actions. Representative cases included alleged violations of the California Consumer Protection Act, the California Unfair Competition Law, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the Unfair Practices Act, the Private Attorney General Act, the Federal False Claim Act, the Federal Debt Collections Practices Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Federal Arbitration Act. See, e.g., Van Patten v. Vertical Fitness Group, LLC, 847 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2017); Hubbard v. Phil's BBQ of Point Loma, Inc., 609 Fed. Appx. 478, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 11781 (9th Cir. 2015).
  • He supervised Receivership actions, including a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme case in which investors eventually recouped over 95% of their investments. Securities And Exchange Commission v. Gina Champion-Cain, 19-cv-1628-LAB (S.D. Cal. Feb. 24, 2023). He occasionally dealt with bankruptcy issues and authored two bankruptcy law decisions while sitting by assignment with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (IPC (USA), Inc. v. Ellis (In re Pettit Oil Co.)), 917 F.3d 1130 (9th Cir. 2019); and Perle v. Fiero (In re Perle), 725 F.3d 1023 (9th Cir. 2013).

Employment Issues

  • As a District Judge, he adjudicated and presided over jury trials in employment cases alleging wrongful discharge, employment and hiring discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower retaliation, illegal background investigations, employee privacy violations, wage and hour disputes, and misappropriation of trade secret information. Representative cases include Merrick v. Hilton Worldwide, Inc., 867 F.3d 1139 (9th Cir. 2017) (age discrimination); and Steffens v. Regus Group, PLC, case no. 08-cv-1494-LAB, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116536 (S.D. Cal. 2013) ($4.6 million jury verdict in whistleblower retaliation case).
  • Sitting by assignment with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, he authored two employment law opinions: Gutierrez v. Colvin, 844 F.3d 804 (9th Cir. 2016) (clarifying standards to be followed by ALJ in awarding or denying disability benefits); and Schmidt v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry., 605 F.3d 686 (9th Cir. 2010) (clarifying test for determining whether one is an “employee” under the Federal Employers Liability Act).
  • As a Magistrate Judge, he successfully mediated dozens of employment discrimination cases, many at Early Neutral Evaluation conferences.

Insurance Coverage

  • As a District Judge, he adjudicated and presided over jury trials in insurance-centric cases including coverage disputes, excess insurance conflicts, and bad faith claims. Representative cases include Cox v. Paul Revere Life Insurance Co., case no. 08-cv-1353-LAB, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61797 (S.D. Cal. 2011) (alleged breach of disability insurance case). He managed and approved numerous insurance class actions, determining class certification and approval of class settlements. Representative cases include Smith v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Inc. et al., case number 08-cv-02353-LAB (S.D. Cal. 2010) ($2.9 million settlement). He successfully mediated several coverage dispute cases including Bear, LLC v. Marine Group Boat Works, LLC, case No. 14-cv-02960-BTM (S.D. Cal. 2015) ($9.2 million partial settlement).

Trademark Issues

  • As a District and Magistrate Judge, he adjudicated and mediated copyright, trademark, and trade dress disputes. He also mediated cases alleging the unauthorized use of a person's name, photograph, and likeness for financial gain. Representative cases include Gwynn v. Seltzer Caplan, case no. 00-cv-1197-BTM(LAB) (S.D. Cal. 2001) (confidential settlement of dispute alleging unauthorized use of name and likeness).

Medical Malpractice

  • As a District Judge, he presided over bench trials in medical malpractice cases under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), including claims of medical negligence during childbirth, surgery, and pre-operative and post-operative care.
  • As a Magistrate Judge, he successfully mediated medical malpractice disputes, including cases involving medical licensure issues.

Real Property

  • As a District Judge, he adjudicated cases involving land use restrictions, constitutional challenges to zoning laws, boundary disputes, eminent domain actions and other takings by the federal government, and actions seeking “stop work” injunctive relief. Representative cases include Save the Park and Build the School v. National Park Service, et al., Case No. 20-cv-01080-LAB, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131439 (S.D. Cal. 2020) (“stop work” injunction under the California Environmental Quality Act); Caputo v. Monge, 737 Fed. Appx. 312, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 15400 (9th Cir. 2018) (bench trial challenging restrictive covenants and Idaho zoning regulations); Tollis Inc. v. County of San Diego, 505 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 2007) (constitutional challenge to zoning restrictions on adult entertainment facilities).

Catastrophic Injury

  • As a District Judge, he presided over bench trials in personal injury cases under the FTCA. Representative cases include Hendrickson v. United States of America et al., case no. 11-cv-1746 (S.D. Cal. 2014 (motorcycle collision with border patrol vehicle resulting in $5.4 million verdict). He also adjudicated and presided over jury trials in product liability cases resulting in personal injury. Representative cases include Latanya Jenkins. v. Tristar Products, Inc., case no. 20-cv-1637 (LAB) (S.D. Cal. 2023) (pressure cooker explosion causing severe burns and loss of consortium).

Product Liability

  • As a Magistrate Judge, he successfully mediated death and personal injury cases including cases alleging defective products. Representative cases include Anderson et al. v. Sunbeam Products Inc. et al., case no. 01-cv-1109- IEG(LAB) (electrocution of a 9-year-old while holding a Sunbeam iron).
Judge Burns is an extraordinary jurist and his trial skills are legendary. He is a perceptive and charming person who is able to cut to the heart of issues. He has judgment, legal expertise and common sense and knows how to resolve cases.
- Civil Rights Attorney in San Diego
Intelligence, integrity, tenacity, and experience make Judge Burns one of the best mediators available.
- Past President of CASD and ABOTA
Judge Burns is an exceptional, experienced mediator. He has the credibility, charisma, and confidence to win over all parties. He has the intelligence and insight to quickly spot the troublesome issues preventing the resolution of the case. And, he has the creativity, patience, and perseverance to work through those issues to the satisfaction, or at least the acceptance, of all parties. He is a huge loss to the judiciary and a major addition to Judicate West.
- Three-Time Recipient of the 'Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award' from CASD
During Judge Burns’ tenure as a Federal District Court Judge, I had the honor of appearing in front of him on numerous occasions. On one of those occasions, Judge Burns presided over a trial of a catastrophic personal injury case in which I represented the plaintiff. He is the absolute best. Judge Burns is one of the smartest judges I have ever appeared before. He is attentive, fair, logical, practical, kind, and understanding. He demonstrates a great command of the law and the facts and can quickly identify the most important issues in a case and explain them in an easily understandable way. All of the skills he possesses will easily transfer over to mediation and ensure that he will be one of the most skilled and effective alternative dispute resolution specialists in town. He was one of the best judges on the bench and I have no doubt that before long he is going to be among the top mediators in San Diego. Any lawyer, no matter which side he/she represents, who wants to help their client get a fair and just result, need look no further than Judge Burns.
- Top Personal Injury Attorney in San Diego
Hon. Larry A. Burns, Ret.
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Mediation Case Manager: Heather Reed
Arbitration/Private Judging Case Manager: Heidi Adams