After graduation from law school, Edward Panelli established a law practice in San Jose, California, with an emphasis on probate, domestic relations, personal injury, and general business law. He served as general counsel to Santa Clara University and the California Province of the Society of Jesus. In 1972, he was appointed to the Santa Clara Superior Court where he served in all departments including Presiding Judge in 1980. In 1983, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal, First District, and, in 1984, was appointed Presiding Justice of the new Sixth Appellate District in San Jose. In 1985, he was appointed to the California Supreme Court by then-governor George Deukmejian.
Judge Panelli has served as a lecturer and instructor for many programs discussing the justice system and the administration of justice. He is a member and vice chairman of the Judicial Council of California and currently serves as chair of the board of trustees of Santa Clara University.