James focuses his practice on trial and appellate representation in complex commercial litigation and elections disputes. He also serves as arbitrator, mediator, and special master.

Before joining the firm, James served as a judge on the Arizona Superior Court, where he presided over hundreds of jury trials, bench trials, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments. The civil trials he oversaw included commercial torts, consumer fraud, contract, professional malpractice, and personal injury claims.  He also handled many election matters involving challenges to candidates and their nominating petitions, disputes regarding initiative descriptions and petitions, and challenges to statutes’ constitutionality. While on the bench, James also conducted settlement conferences for cases before other judges.  He would work collaboratively with the lawyers and parties to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case and, more importantly, find solutions that avoided the burden and expense of trial.  James is on the AAA panel of arbitration neutrals.

Before his judicial appointment, James was a partner in an international law firm and specialized in consumer-facing class action defense plus commercial litigation.  He appeared in federal and state trial and appellate courts, and handled arbitration disputes, throughout the country.  

James often writes on issues about evidence and civil procedure.  Before taking the bench, he also wrote extensively about RICO and class action matters.

James is a member of the State Bar of Arizona Civil Jury Instructions Committee and formerly served on the Civil Practice and Procedure Committee.

Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamessmithphoenix/


  • Best Lawyers®, Commercial Litigation, 2024



  • Speaker, “Litigation Update: Arizona Supreme Court Opinion in Planned Parenthood Ariz., Inc. v. Mayes/Hazelrigg, 545 P.3d 892 (Ariz. 2024),” The Federalist Society, May 14, 2024.
  • Speaker, “Arizona Law: Updates and Oddities,” Association of Corporate Counsel, April 16, 2024.
  • Speaker, “Thoughts on Rule 11,” State Bar of Arizona, June 15, 2023
  • Panelist, “One Year Later: How Voir Dire has Changed After the Elimination of Peremptory Challenges,” State Bar of Arizona, January 18, 2023. 
  • Speaker, “Ethical Issues for In-House Lawyers: What Judges Might See,” Association of Corporate Counsel, September 27, 2022
  • Panelist, “Working With Expert Witnesses in Litigation,” Maricopa County Bar Association, September 23, 2022
  • Panelist, “Professional Courtesy and Litigation,” Arizona Association of Defense Counsel, September 22, 2022
  • Panelist, “Judges’ Round Table on E-Discovery,” Women in E-Discovery, August 18, 2022
  • Panelist, “Effective Advocacy for Construction Lawyers,” State Bar of Arizona, March 18, 2022
  • Speaker, “Advanced Legal Research,” Arizona State University, College of Law, Spring 2022
  • Panelist, “What Does Jury Selection Look Like During a Pandemic,” JuryScope CLE presentation, December 16, 2020
  • Guest Speaker, “Tips for Trial Practitioners During the Pandemic,” Thurgood Marshall American Inn of Court, October 28, 2020
  • Panelist, “Civility in the Practice,” ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section Mid-Year Meeting, February 21, 2020
  • Lecturer, State Bar of Arizona Professionalism Course, May 15, 2018
  • Lecturer, Family Law Training for Superior Court Judges, Maricopa County Superior Court, February 15, 2018