Neutral Profile




  • Based in Orange County
  • Available for Mediation and Private Judging assignments


In 2018, after 21 years of distinguished service for the Orange County Superior Court, Judge Colaw retired and currently serves as a mediator, arbitrator, and private judge. After 11 years on the General Civil Panel, Judge Colaw served for 9 years on the Complex Civil Panel, where he developed an unparalleled track record, presiding over a broad spectrum of challenging cases including employment class actions, construction defects, toxic torts, CEQA and other multi-party complex matters.

Judge Colaw is a long-time active member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA)and Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL). He is the proud recipient of many judicial honors including several “Judge of the Year” awards from various organizations. Prior to serving on the bench, Judge Colaw was in private practice for 20 years representing both plaintiffs and defendants in all types of civil litigation. Judge Colaw, a United States Navy veteran who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, is an alumnus of the Santa Clara University School of Law, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Practice Areas

Hobbies & Interests

Judge Colaw is a sports enthusiast who yearly in autumn travels to college football meccas for big games with his brothers and sons. He especially loves all classical music, most jazz, some pop, enjoys photography, bicycling, the beach, cooking French cuisine with his spouse, and travel anywhere, although especially the USA and Europe.


"Judge Colaw did a truly remarkable job in getting our portion of the case settled against great odds."
- Attorney on a Personal Injury case

"He was attentive, he really worked at the process the facts, the law + getting to areas of resolution + eventual settlement."
- Attorney on a premises liability dispute

"J. Colaw listens to the parties and takes what they say and applies it to the case. He brings years of invaluable insight and experience to the mediation process. He is also very good at thinking outside of the box in ways to try to resolve the case."
- Attorney on a personal injury slip & fall matter

"He was respectful toward the process and my client.. she respected his opinions."
- Attorney on a Premises Liability Matter

"Nice. Prepared. Quick on assessment. Practical. Will definitely move him high on future engagements. Thank you!"
- President and Founder of a Civil Litigation Firm

"Judge Colaw was fantastic; it was one of the better mediation experiences I’ve had. We did not settle the case on the day of mediation, and he continued to work with and for us, and we resolve the case a week later. I will, and already have recommended Judge Colaw to others."
- Attorney on a Medical Malpractice Matter

"I thought Judge Colaw was very good and I would definitely use him again. We were very impressed with the effort put in by the judge and how well prepared he was to understand each side's position."
- Attorney on a Personal Injury Matter

"A challenging day, held together by Judge Colaw. With challenges everywhere, he kept us there, and worked the issues. Excellent effort in all respects. "
- President and Founder of a Law Firm Specializing in Civil Litigation in Federal and State Courts

Read More

Experience Summary

Legal Career

  • Judge, Superior Court, Orange County (1997-2018); Complex Civil Panel (2006-2010 and 2014-2017); General Civil Panel (1997-2005 and 2011-2013)
  • Partner, Hunt, Colaw & Adams, Civil Litigation (1993-1997)
  • Partner, Hunt & Colaw, Civil Litigation (1990-1992)
  • Partner, Hunt, Colaw & Roe, Civil Litigation (1985-1989)
  • Attorney, Vernon W. Hunt, Civil Litigation (1979-1984)
  • Attorney, Smith & Brissenden, Insurance Defense Litigation (1977-1979)

Education & Professional Affiliations

  • J.D., University of Santa Clara Law School (1977)
  • B. A., Cum Laude, University of California, Los Angeles (1974)
  • American Board of Trial Advocates, Member (ABOTA), (2001-Present)
  • ABOTA Orange County Chapter, President (2012), Board Member (2006-2014)
  • CAL-ABOTA, Board Member (2011-2013)
  • Assoc. of Business Trial Lawyers, Board or Judicial Advisory Board Member (ABTL); (2006-2018)
  • Robert J. Banyard Inn of Court, Member (1998-Present); President (2000)
  • Orange County Superior Court, Executive Committee (2006-2015)
  • California Judges Association, Board of Directors (CJA); (2007 – 2010)
  • Orange County Bar Association, Board of Directors (OCBA); (1982-1996)
  • California State Bar Committee on the Administration of Justice, Member (1989-1992)
  • Orange County Trial Lawyers Association, President (1989)
  • Orange County Barristers, President (1983)

Achievements & Awards

  • George Francis Judicial Civility Award Recipient, American Board of Trial Advocates (2015)
  • Judicial Excellence & Integrity Award, Orange County Trial Lawyers Association (2004)
  • Judge of the Year, Business Trial Lawyer Section of Orange County Bar Association (2003)
  • Judge of the Year, American Board of Trial Advocates (2000)
  • Judicial Civility Award, Robert J. Banyard Inn of Court (1999)
  • Jerrold Oliver Award, Orange County Trial Lawyers Association
  • Lecturer/panelist for American Board of Trial Advocates, The Rutter Group, CEB, California Judicial Education Research, Orange County Bar Association, Orange County Superior Court Temporary Judge Program

Legal Experience

  • Business/Contractual
  • Construction Defect
  • Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith
  • Product Liability including Pharmaceutical
  • Professional Malpractice
  • All types of Personal Injury
  • General Maritime Law
  • Environmental/CEQA
  • Class Actions
  • Mass Tort

Representative Case Information

Recent Representative Cases



  • Business dispute between a sports agent business (an LLC plaintiff) and a multi-university sports conference and its related sports broadcasting channel (defendants).  The dispute focused on the plaintiff LLC's claims that defendants reneged on an oral agreement to pay commissions or at least quantum meruit for services rendered in setting up and facilitating a deal between the defendants and a 3rd party major national communications network for distribution and advertising rights at each university.
  • Plaintiff real estate professional sued alleged partner for failing to pay amounts owed under contracts for flipping real estate and partnership split of proceeds. Case settled for cash and real property.
  • A case involving a professional motor racing driver who contracted with apparel company. The apparel company promised to make payments over 3 years to the race car driver to market and advertise national product. Both sides say the other side repudiated the contract after just a few months with minimal efforts and no money paid.
  • Settled a slip-and-fall incident at a national restaurant chain location. Plaintiff seeks damages in the seven-figure range for a broken wrist and loss of earnings from work. Liability issue arose due to rainy weather, grease on the floor and lack of mats.


Wage and Hour

  • A Class Action for failure to pay wages to hourly workers in construction including overtime, penalties, meal & rest, failure to pay wages on termination accurately and timely, and PAGA, etc.


Bad Faith

  • Settled an Insurance Bad Faith case following an underinsured motorist claim from an auto accident. Case settled in the seven-figure range.


Catastrophic Injury

  • A toddler was severely injured when fell from the window of the 2nd floor to concrete below and suffered skull fractures, subdural hematoma, loss of sight in one eye, with residual learning and psychological disabilities as well.

Maritime Law

  • Maritime case on the high seas with severe brain injury to a seaman/sailor on commercial fishing trawler hit it the head by parted line with heavy metal fastener. Significant maritime law issues, i.e., no set-offs for prior settlement with other parties, no Howell number reduction or other collateral source reduction, all defendants jointly and severally liable for all economic and non-economic damages (No Prop 51 set-off or adjustment for non-economic damages), reverse Erie Doctrine applicable, i.e., Federal Maritime Substantive law applied, not California Substantive law.

Personal Injury

  • Negligence claim against major air carrier and airport facility re slip & fall with tendon injury complicated by alleged medical negligence by the physician with resultant drop-foot.

PI Auto

  • Catastrophic injuries to a bicyclist who crashed as an alleged result of the dangerous condition of public property in a bike lane. Type I indemnity clauses in Vendor contracts with city public entity.
  • A complicated auto versus motorcycle personal injury case with catastrophic injuries to a motorcyclist. The case was complicated by a potential bad faith claim by the defendant against his insurer for purportedly not promptly settling thereby exposing real property assets worth millions. Case settled after 3 days of mediation and follow-up phone conferences for multiple 7 figures.
  • A lawsuit by the parent of a student who had IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that required school busing him "curb to curb" rather than him walking home. Child struck by a car while walking home. Permanent brain injury with seizures and multiple other fractures and orthopedic problems.

PI Sexual Assault

  • A young alleged rape victim sues in civil court for date rape purportedly by an older male.

Policy Distribution

  • Determination of amounts each parent receives from a multi-million dollar wrongful death of child.

Premises Liability

  • Trip and fall of an elderly retired engineer who got foot entangled in wires of a mess of computers at a school polling place in Costa Mesa.
  • Settled a slip and fall against an American multinational retail corporation.
  • Severe genital and thigh burn injuries to a toddler in a restaurant from allegedly negligently placed hot water by the server. A sensitive case involving potential and alleged negligence of the mother.

Wrongful Death

  • Two Pilots of Defendant manufacturer helicopter killed in alleged "mast-bumping" incident crash in alleged high turbulence area. Design defects in mast hub alleged by Pilots families' attorneys, defendant manufacturer contended no defects, instead crash was due to pilot error operating at excess speed for turbulent conditions and over-application of controls.
  • Death of a young crane operator when the brake line of a crane dolly was disconnected crushing him between Crane rig and dolly. Survived by wife and baby. Significant comp lien, and claims of employer negligence as well as claims of comparative. Plaintiff claimed strict product liability for defective design and cost-benefit analysis prong of Barker v. Lull.