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Phone: (559) 432-4500

8080 North Palm Ave. Third Floor

Fresno, CA 93711

Nickolas Dibiaso


Retired Judge/neutral

Current Employer:

Dowling Aaron Incorporated

Areas of Expertise:

✔ Agricultural ✔ Antitrust
✔ Appellate ✔ Banking & finance
✔ Class Actions ✔ Commercial/Business
✔ Condominiums ✔ Construction
✔ Contract Disputes ✔ Eminent Domain
✔ Employment ✔ Energy including oil and gas
✔ Engineering ✔ Environmental
✔ Executive Compensation ✔ Family Businesses
✔ Franchise ✔ Health Care
✔ Industrial ✔ Insurance
✔ Joint Ventures ✔ Land Use/Planning
✔ Landlord/Tenant ✔ Legal Malpractice
✔ Mergers & Acquisitions ✔ Mining
✔ Partnerships ✔ Personal Injury
✔ Premises Liability ✔ Probate
✔ Professional Fees ✔ Professional Liability
✔ Professional Malpractice ✔ Professional Negligence
✔ Real Estate ✔ Securities
✔ Shareholder Disputes ✔ Taxation
✔ Title Disputes ✔ Torts
✔ Trademarks ✔ Trade Secrets and Confidentiality Disputes
✔ Transportation ✔ Trusts/Estates


I have devoted virtually my entire professional career -- as a trial lawyer, trial court judge, appellate justice, and neutral – to the litigation or alternate resolution of complex civil cases.

As a trial lawyer, I represented clients throughout the Country in major business disputes and litigation, including antitrust, securities, agricultural, oil and gas, corporate and construction industry matters, appearing in jury and non-jury trials in state and federal courts, in administrative hearings before state and federal commissions and agencies, and in appeals in state and federal appellate courts. I was also involved in transactional and preventative construction industry and antitrust law, such as the preparation of construction contracts and subcontracts, the planning and review of construction job administration procedures, and the giving of antitrust counseling and compliance advice to clients whose business activities necessitated careful attention to the Federal and State antitrust laws. During my years in private practice, I served from time to time as a commercial and construction panel arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association. I held an "AV" Martindale rating.

As a Superior Court Judge, I presided at both jury and non-jury trials, and for almost all of my tenure I was assigned to hear complex civil cases, as to which I was usually designated to act at "all phases" of the litigation, from pre-trial through post-trial. In addition, I was assigned by the California Administrative Office of the Courts as the single "for all purposes" judge in a number of coordinated, multi-county, complex business actions. Also during my tenure on the trial court, I regularly served as a civil law and motion judge and held settlement conferences involving all varieties of civil cases. As a Justice of the Court of Appeal, I participated in the appellate disposition of more than 4000 cases, including writ proceedings and appeals, of infinite variety and issues. I was the author of more than 1200 appellate opinions.

Since retirement from the bench, I have acted as an Arbitrator or Mediator or Court Appointed Officer in a multitude of civil business cases, with amounts in controversy ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to millions, including breach of contract claims, construction project disputes, real estate ransactions, property ownership matters, insurance coverage issues, medical malpractice claims, legal malpractice claims, accounting malpractice claims, public retirement system controversies, condemnation valuation questions, wrongful death and personal injury claims, employment controversies, partnership and corporate governance and dissolution disputes, shareholder derivative claims, trade secret disputes, hospital governance matters, health care payor-payee disputes, unfair competition claims, and probate and trust controversies.

Work History:

Captain, U. S. Army (active duty) (1968-1970)
Thomas, Snell, Jamison, Russell, Williamson & Asperger (1970-1985)
Judge, Fresno County Superior Court (1985-1989)
Justice, Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (1989-2006)
Assistant Presiding Justice (2001-2006)
Justice pro-tem, California Supreme Court (January 1999)
Of Counsel, Dowling Aaron Incorporated (2006-present)


The cases in which I have acted as an Arbitrator include:
-the dissolution of a 4 million dollar agricultural limited liability corporation,
-the dissolution of two 350 million dollar partnerships,
-a breach of contract dispute between two Midwestern credit unions in connection with the sale and re-purchase of a 5 million dollar sub-prime mobile home loan pool,
-a 12 million dollar commercial contract dispute centered in Utah,
-a 2 million dollar legal malpractice action centered in Nevada,
-an action between a partnership and its former partners over withdrawal payouts and non-competition provisions in the partnership agreement,
-a complex multi-million dollar breach of contract action involving claims arising out of concurrent surface use and subsurface mining rights in real property,
-consolidated probate and trust actions involving cross-claims of heirs to a 60 million dollar estate consisting of a real estate development business,
-a 250 million dollar accounting claim brought by a federal governmental agency against an international business firm,
-a 40 million dollar breach of contract claim arising out of a multi-year contract to manufacture and supply a well-known household product,
-a 150 million dollar breach of contract claim arising out of a contract to construct a refinery for a petroleum product,
-a dispute among the members of an LLC about the management of a 20 million dollar agricultural facility, and
-the alleged infringement of the trademark of a 300 million dollar agricultural corporation.

The cases in which I have served as a Court Appointed officer include acting as:
-a plenary referee in an action for the judicial foreclosure of deeds of trust and for deficiency judgments against debtors and guarantors arising out of loans exceeding 8 million dollars extended to finance the acquisition and construction of a residential subdivision project;
-a plenary referee in a dispute involving the dissolution of a 50 million dollar real estate development partnership,
-a discovery referee in a breach of contract and breach of warranty case involving the sale of an automated dairy milking system, in which a 20 million dollar damage claim was made against numerous defendants (including United Kingdom and Netherlands corporations),
-a discovery referee in a various commercial disputes, including several raising E-Discovery issues,
-a special master in a state-wide wage and hour class action, and -a temporary judge in a dispute among the alleged beneficiaries of a multi-million dollar life insurance policy,

I have particular knowledge and experience in matters involving corporate and partnership disputes and dissolutions, valuations of real and personal property and business entities, and complex accounting and/or damage calculation issues with respect to public and private business entities.


San Joaquin College of Law, Fresno, California. Assistant Adjunct Professor of Law (1979-1983) (Taught course entitled “Antitrust and Trade Regulation Law”)

I have participated as an instructor or panel member for a multitude of civil litigation, discovery, arbitration, trial and appellate practice and substantive law (including construction, antitrust, and arbitration) educational programs, involving both federal and state law topics and sponsored by a variety of organizations, including the California Judicial College, the Center for Judicial Education and Research (CJER), the California Bar Association, the California Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), the San Joaquin College of Law, the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District, the American Arbitration Association, the Rutter Group, the Construction Specifications Institute, and the Associated General Contractors of California.

Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution (Pepperdine University (2005))


State Bar of California
US Supreme Court
US Tax Court
US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
Various US District Courts


“AV” Martindale-Hubbell rating
Daily Journal 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Northern California “SuperLawyer.”
American Arbitration Association Distinguished Service Award (1990)
U.S. Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM)


American Arbitration Association’s Judges Panel,
Commercial Case panel (including Large Complex cases),
Appellate panel,
International Panel,
Construction Panel,
Employment Panel,
and Health Care Panel.


Fellow, College of Commercial Arbitrators
Member, California Academy of Appellate Lawyers
Member, Federal Arbitration, Inc.
California Bar Association


University of Santa Clara, B. A. History (Magna Cum Laude) (1965)
Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, Juris Doctor (1968)


List of published appellate opinions is attached to my full resume at


It is “virtually impossible to find a lawyer who has a bad word to say about [him]”

“He’s had more experience [in complex civil cases] than most of the lawyers who come before him.” --Daily Journal, April 26, 1988

He “is revered in Central Valley legal circles, praised for his intelligence, savvy and objectivity.”

“His experience in handling complex business cases, both as a lawyer and a trial court judge, gives him an unusual command over such cases.”

“He’s a deep thinker who has also experienced life in the trenches.”

--Daily Journal, September 23, 2002

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