Professional Panel - Judge John J. Gallagher (Ret.)
If it’s true, it’s not bragging. With Irish mischief twinkling in his eyes, retired Santa Rosa Judge John Gallagher says flatly: “I am the best mediator you can find.” Well, his success rate is 95%. Case closed.
You can get away with such a claim if you are charming and disarming. Gallagher is both. Asked what he feels is the most important ingredient in effective mediation, Gallagher answers without a pause: “Imagination. Too many in our profession think there is only one way to resolve a case, and they get locked in and blind to alternative solutions. There are so many creative ways to settle a case; you just have to keep an open mind. My philosophy is simple: You must get a feeling for the people before you do or say anything else. You will discover there are people you can push, people you can’t push; people you can be light with, people you can’t be light with. The trick is to respect the people for who they are.
“Thinking is my most effective tool. I give each case a lot of thought, developing a panoply of different approaches. I’m upfront with people, and I’ve always lived by this. My father (famed Anaheim attorney Steve Gallagher) told me early on that you don’t tell lies, and I never have. Yes, sometimes my humor gets away from me, but I can’t help it. Once, in mediation, I told a participant: ‘You don’t need an arbitrator. You need Jesse Ventura to come in and kick some serious ass.’ ”
After 21 years on the bench, Judge Gallagher retired from the Sonoma County Superior Court in 1997. A devout Catholic deeply troubled by the Church’s ongoing moral crisis, Gallagher serves on a diocesan committee investigating pedophile priests in Santa Rosa.
Retirement has freed Judge Gallagher to devote large chunks of his time to various volunteer activities. He leads a discussion group every week at a local assisted living facility, covering current events, politics, and items of general interest. Popular among the residents, the group has about 25 people every week.
The judge is also on the Advisory Board of St. Andrew's Episcopal Mission for the hungry in Monte Rio. Twice a month, he shops at the food bank, fills his pick-up truck, and delivers a load of food to the Mission. He is also a Life Member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board.
As a heavyweight slugger determined to maintain his 95% batting average, Gallagher attributes his success to being well prepared, maintaining an open mind, imagination, likeability, respect for clients, and cultivating an atmosphere of different approaches to creative resolution.
ON THE BENCH
Judge Gallagher was elected to an open seat on the Sonoma County Superior Court in November 1976. He served as Presiding Judge in 1980, 1985, and 1993. He was appointed to the Appellate Department of Sonoma County on three occasions by the Chief Justice. During his term in 1980, Judge Gallagher instituted a major effort to reduce backlogs by exposing every case on the civil active list to settlement conference and trial. In his 21 years on the bench, Judge Gallagher has heard every calendar and presided over hundreds of civil cases.