Thomas H. Geoghegan


Thomas H. Geoghegan

Thomas H. Geoghegan is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard College. Since 1980 he has been a member of the Illinois Bar. Over the years, he has represented labor unions and employee groups in many significant cases in various United States district courts and courts of appeals. He has argued before the United States Supreme Court in Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, 558 U.S. 67 (2009), in which the firm won a 9-0 decision. He has also brought several constitutional rights cases, including Judge v. Quinn, 612 F.3d 537 (2010) establishing the right of Illinois voters to fill U.S. Senate vacancies by election.

He has represented thousands of workers in plant closings, recovering $19 million for workers at Wisconsin Steel and $6 million for workers at Outboard Marine Corporation. The firm under his direction has also recovered millions of dollars for workers in class actions against employers for violations of the WARN Act, which requires notice prior to layoffs. He represented Teamsters for a Democratic Union in litigation between the Justice Department and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which resulted in establishing the right of rank and file members to direct election of their principal officers.

His labor union clients include the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, General Committees of Adjustment, and the Chicago Teachers Union. In addition to his labor and employment law practice, he has participated in a variety of public interest cases. He successfully settled a class action against Advocate Health Systems to provide more charity care to the indigent and to stop collection cases against those unable to pay. He represented homeless in a suit to require the City to take efficient measures to curb the spread of tuberculosis. He also brought the first litigation challenging hand gun owners for creating a public nuisance by the negligent spread of handguns to young people.

Before starting his current practice, he worked in the policy office of the United States Department of Energy from 1977 through 1979 and was one of the drafters of “National Energy Plan II” by the Carter Administration.

He has written six books, including Which Side Are You On? (1991), cited as one of the best five non-fiction books in that year by the National Book Critics Circle. He has written for the New York Times, The Nation, Harper’s, Slate, Bloomberg View, and other publications. His latest book, Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement, was released in December 2014. In the fall of 1994, he was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. In 2004 he was a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

Education, Bar Admissions and Memberships


  • Harvard Law School, J.D.
  • Harvard College, B.A.

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
    • Trial Bar Member
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin


  • Board, Business and Professional People in the Public Interest (BPI)
  • Board, Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project (FLAP)

Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan, Ltd.