• Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court


Columbia University (A.B., magna cum laude, 1982; Phi Beta Kappa)

University of Chicago Law School (J.D., 1985)


Jim Geoly is a litigator with broad experience representing religious, social services, health care, and commercial organizations at Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella. He handles cases in state and federal courts at every level and before administrative agencies. He has extensive appellate experience and has filed numerous briefs in the Supreme Court. Mr. Geoly has litigated a variety of issues, concentrating on constitutional law, religious liberty, not-for-profit corporate control, professional and clergy misconduct, insurance coverage, and privilege and confidentiality. 

Mr. Geoly has represented religious organizations of many denominations, in a wide variety of legal matters. He has successfully represented Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic organizations in legal challenges to clergy discipline. He represented a Catholic religious order in Doe v. Holy See, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals blocked a lawsuit against the Vatican. He has represented Protestant congregations in church property and corporate control disputes. He successfully led the litigation team on behalf of the Chicago Park District in the challenges to the renovation of Chicago’s Soldier Field and the closure of Meigs Field. He authored amicus briefs on behalf of the Illinois Catholic Conference and a diverse spectrum of religious groups, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the application of RICO in cases involving protesters protected by the First Amendment, and urged the Illinois Supreme Court to reject efforts to retroactively revive time-barred clergy misconduct claims. In 1999, he represented the United Methodist Church in its disciplinary trial of Rev. Gregory Dell for performing a same sex union ceremony in violation of the Church’s teachings. Mr. Geoly was a member of the team defending Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in Cook v. Bernardin and defended Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago against a challenge to its adolescent pregnancy prevention grant in the wake of Bowen v. Kendrick. Mr. Geoly also successfully argued the appeal of a First Amendment challenge to defamation claims arising from the clergy discipline process. 

In addition to litigation matters, Mr. Geoly counsels clients in risk management and other issues and has extensive experience conducting mediation and other alternative dispute resolution proceedings, especially in highly sensitive and confidential matters. He also has significant experience in managing crisis situations involving multiple disciplines such as law, public relations, and mental health. 

Mr. Geoly has provided expert testimony to the Illinois legislature on the issue of physician-assisted suicide. He has published an article in the National Law Journal on issues confronting religiously sponsored health care institutions and has published a law review article on religious liberty issues in fair housing. Mr. Geoly has also published op-ed pieces in the Chicago Sun Times on the Dell trial, the Wall Street Journal on Charitable Choice in welfare reform, the Chicago Tribune on Cardinal Bernardin and assisted suicide, and Leadership/Christianity Today on sexual harassment. He has appeared on "Court TV,"  "Chicago Tonight"  (WTTW-TV/PBS), and "Supreme Court Round-up" on religious liberty issues and on "Issues USA" (TCI Cable-TV) on charitable choice and welfare reform. He has been a speaker at the Menninger Clinic, the DePaul Center for Church/State Studies, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the American Bar Association, The John Marshall Law School/U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing Enforcement Conference, the Salvation Army School for Officer Training, the American Health Lawyers Association’s Conference on Long-Term Care and the Law, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aged, the Conference of Major Religious Superiors of Men’s Institutes of the United States, and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Mr. Geoly has appeared regularly on the Illinois Catholic Conference’s radio program to discuss various religious liberty issues.


Representative cases:

  • Witzel v. CIS, 531 U.S. 1101, 121 S. Ct. 851 (mem) (2001)
  • Anderson v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 759 F.3d 645 (7th Cir. 2014) (argued)
  • Nissan North America, Inc. v. Jim M’Lady Oldsmobile, Inc., 486 F.3d 989 (7th Cir. 2007) (argued)
  • Nissan North America, Inc. v. Jim M’Lady Oldsmobile, Inc., 307 F.3d 601 (7th Cir. 2002) (argued)
  • Cady v. City of Chicago, 43 F. 3d 326 (7th Cir. 1994) (argued)
  • Friends of the Parks v. Chicago Park District, 203 Ill. 2d 312, 786 N.E. 2d 161 (2003)
  • Stepek v. Doe, 392, Ill. App. 3d 739, 910 N.E. 2d 655 (1st Dist.) (argued)
  • Zawadzka v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 337 Ill. App. 3d 66, 785 N.E.2d 71 (1st Dist. 2003) (argued)
  • Brownlow v. Richards, 328 Ill. App. 3d 833, 767 N.E. 2d 482 (1st Dist. 2002)
  • Ragavskene v. Edgebrook Motel, et al. (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 1998), leave to appeal denied, 182 Ill.2d 571, 707 N.E.2d 1245 (1999)
  • Stein v. Rio Parismina Lodge, 296 Ill. App. 3d 520, 695 N.E. 2d 518 (1st Dist. 1998) (argued)
  • South Jersey Catholic School Teachers Org. v. St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus Elementary School, et al., 696 A. 2d 709 (N.J. 1997)
  • Alexander v. Phoenix Bond & Indem. Co., 149 F. Supp. 2d 989 (N.D.Ill. 2001)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America v. Atlantic Mutual Inc. Co., 973 F. Supp. 820 (N.D.Ill. 1997)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America v. Atlantic Mutual Inc. Co., 173 F.R.D. 507 (N.D.Ill. 1997)
  • Zipper v. Todd, 1997 WL 181044 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (argued)


Chicago Bar Association

American Bar Association

National Diocesan Attorneys Association

Life Directions USA, counsel to organization devoted to serving the needs of young people at risk



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