Geraldine Brown

Hon. Geraldine Soat Brown (Ret.)

JAMS Mediator and Arbitrator

Case Manager
Juliana Wilkin
T: 312-655-9193
F: 312-655-0644
71 S. Wacker Dr., Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60606


Hon. Geraldine Soat Brown (Ret.) joined JAMS following 16 years of distinguished service as a Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, including four years as Presiding Magistrate Judge. During her time on the bench, Judge Brown presided over thousands of civil cases in both pretrial and trial stages, including jury and bench trials in breach of contract, employment, civil rights, tort, and civil RICO cases.

Before her appointment to the bench, Judge Brown had 25 years of experience in commercial and construction litigation, trying cases to verdict and arguing appeals in state and federal court. She represented parties in litigation and arbitration of contract and construction disputes, and represented lawyers, architects, and real estate brokers in disputes relating to their professional relationships and obligations. She has been elected to membership in the Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys. 

She is known as a decisive and even-tempered jurist, qualities that serve her well in mediation. Lawyers report that she has helped litigants reach negotiated resolutions even in cases where the parties did not believe settlement was feasible.

At JAMS, Judge Brown puts her decades of legal experience and alternative dispute resolution expertise to work, resolving disputes as an arbitrator, mediator, and court-appointed special master, with a focus on commercial and construction disputes.

Representative Matters

Judge Brown was in active arbitration practice—as advocate and arbitrator—for over 20 years prior to joining the federal bench. She has written and lectured extensively on alternative dispute resolution topics and has advised both the federal and state judiciaries on ADR processes.

Arbitrated (either as sole arbitrator or member of a panel):

  • Construction disputes relating to commercial, residential, and condominium buildings, and public works.
  • Contract disputes, including real estate, franchising, partnership, and financing cases.
  • Employment cases.
  • Multi-party case concerning design/build contract for construction of storage facility.
  • Claim of architectural malpractice in design of industrial building.
  • Claim against subcontractor for alleged defects in installation of water line and counterclaim by surety for unpaid amounts.
  • Claim alleging defective design of factory production line.
  • Claim alleging defective workmanship in façade repair work on a condominium building.
  • Multi-party construction dispute arising from default of subcontractor in school expansion project.
  • Disputes relating to construction of a wind turbine project including change order, trade secret, civil RICO and other claims. 

Business and commercial:

  • Cases involving breach of contract in a variety of commercial contexts, including software licensing, software hosting, asset sales agreements, and medical payments processing agreements.
  • Numerous cases involving disputes between former partners or associates: breach of contract, theft of trade secrets and/or breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Claim by receiver for a failed bank against bank’s insurer.
  • Carmack Amendment case involving contract for transport of materials.
  • Claims for property damage to a dozen food producers and related insurance coverage disputes arising out of USDA condemnation of food storage facility. After 28 sessions held over nine months, all claims in multiple state and federal lawsuits were settled and the cases dismissed.
  • Four class action cases in state and federal court involving the same insurer’s liens over personal injury recoveries. After 11 sessions held over a year, full resolution was reached in all cases. 
  • Dispute involving succession interests in family business and property.
  • Breach of fiduciary duty claim against trustee alleging that the trustee favored certain heirs in the investment and distribution of assets from family trust.
  • Claims and counterclaims in long-standing dispute among attorneys and family members arising from catastrophic personal injury.
  • CERCLA responsibility of real estate trust owning commercial property.
  • Claim against institutional fiduciary alleging misuse of funds in trust to benefit educational institution.
  • Copyright claim regarding canisters, complicated by prior business relationship between parties.
  • Cases involving copyright, trademark, or patent claims for a variety of services and products, including artworks, songs, food dispensers, business names, images, and signage.

As a judge: 

  • Conducted jury trial involving claim for breach of complex software development contract.
  • Conducted jury trial in civil RICO and breach of contract claim against national moving company.
  • Conducted preliminary injunction hearings in numerous cases, including claimed breach of restrictive covenant, replevin of leased equipment, and award of public contract.
Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS. 

  • Appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court:
    • Member of the Illinois Supreme Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinating Committee,1992-1993; and
    • Expert Advisor to the Illinois Judicial Conference Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinating Committee, 1994-2000.
  • American Arbitration Association, Construction and Commercial Arbitrator and Mediator Panels, 1976- 2000
    • Chicago Region Construction Arbitration Advisory Committee
      • Member, 1982-1996; Chair, January 1987-December 1988
      • Member, Commercial Arbitration Advisory Committee, 1998-2000
  • Elected, Member of Illinois Society of Construction Attorneys
  • Mediator, Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR), 1992-2000
  • Adjunct Professor, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Chicago-Kent College of Law, 1993-1995

Selected Speaking Engagements

  • Presenter, “Protecting Confidentiality in Mediation and Settlement Negotiations,” Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys, September 21, 2021
  • Panelist, “Mediating Settlements of Complex Cases in a Diverse COVID Climate,” Chicago Bar Association, December 3, 2020 
  • Panelist, “Ethical Issues in International and Domestic Arbitration,” JAMS Global Engineering and Construction Practice Group, February 20, 2020
  • Presenter, "ADR Headlines: Recent News about Arbitration and Mediation," Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys, December 2019
  • Presenter, "What Litigators Need to Do Differently When Acting as Advocates in Arbitration, Arbitrator Subpoenas and Evidence from Non-Parties," American Bar Association Women in Litigation Section, November 2019
  • Presenter, Developments in E-discovery, National Subcontractors Alliance Attorneys Council, October 20, 2017
  • Co-Presenter, Thinking Strategically about Settlement, DRI Retail and Hospitality Committee, October 6, 2017
  • Co-Presenter, Litigation Zombies: Settlements that Don’t Stick and Sanctions After Litigation, CLE day at JAMS, June 15, 2017
  • Presenter, Ten Things You Should Know about Practicing Before Magistrate Judges, Union League Club Lawyers Group, May 24, 2017
  • Co-Presenter, Tips of the Trade: Settlement Conferences, Illinois State Bar Association, May 10, 2017
  • Co-Presenter, E-discovery in Construction Cases, Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys, April 18, 2017
  • Panelist, Mediation Roundtable, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Western Division, February 13, 2017
  • Panelist, Littler Women’s Leadership Initiative, Littler Mendelson, Nov. 9, 2016

Author of numerous articles including the following:

  • Author, “Confidentiality in Settlement Negotiations.” Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, No. 167 (Nov. 2021)
  • Author (with Lorence H. Slutzky), “Zombie Settlements.” 107 Illinois Bar Journal 32 (May 2019)
  • Author, “The Top Five Things to Know about the New Federal Discovery Rules." The Circuit Rider 10 (Nov. 2015)
  • Author, “When is a Foreigner Diverse?:  Diversity Jurisdiction in Cases Involving Foreign Citizens and Businesses,” 62 The Federal Lawyer, No. 1, 66 (Jan. 2015)
  • Contributor, “Symposium:  The Restyled Federal Rules of Evidence,” 53 William and Mary Law Review, No. 5, 1470 (2012)
  • Author, “Reining in E-Discovery,” 37 Litigation, No. 4, 18 (2011)
  • Author, “What Happens to Cases that Don’t Settle,” 11 Dispute Resolution Magazine, No. 3, 25 (2005)
  • Co-author with Michael L. Shakman and Barry A. Miller, “Primer on Acting Rationally When Lawyers Relocate,” 14 CBA Record, No. 2, 24 (2000)
  • Author, “One Firm’s Tradition of Breaking Traditions,” Breaking Traditions, American Bar Association (1993)
  • Author, “Differences Between Private Arbitration and Mandatory Court-Annexed Arbitration,” 5 CBA Record, No. 4, 20 (1991)
  • Author, “Some Practical Thoughts on Arbitration,” The Corporate Litigator, American Bar Association (1989)
  • Editor, The Practical Guide to Illinois Preservation Law. Chicago Bar Association, Young Lawyers Section (1984)


  • Illinois State Bar 
  • United States District Court, N.D. Illinois. E.D. Michigan 
  • United States District Court Trial Bar
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, for the Sixth Circuit
  • United States Supreme Court

Selected Professional Memberships

  • American Bar Association
  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • Chicago Bar Association
    • Chair, Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, 1999-2000
    • Co-Chair, Alliance for Women, 2003-2004
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Federal Magistrate Judges Association 
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
    • Presiding Magistrate Judge, 2012-2016
    • Magistrate Judge, 2000-2016
  • Miller, Shakman & Hamilton (and predecessor firms)
    • Partner, 1980-2000
    • Associate, 1975-1980
  • Arbitrator, Mandatory Arbitration Program of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chicago, Illinois, 1990-2000
    • Member, Mediator Panel for the Law Division Voluntary Mediation Program, 1993-2000
  • Federal Defender Panel
    • Attorney Member, 1999-2000
    • Attorney Intern, 1998-1999
  • J.D., University of Chicago Law School, 1975
  • B.A., summa cum laude, University of Dayton, 1972

Counsel Comments

    • "Magistrate Judge Brown has been a leader in our Court and is known throughout our District as a magistrate judge who will work diligently to assist parties during complex settlement conferences and has handled a large number of difficult civil lawsuits and criminal cases."

      – Hon. Rubén Castillo, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
    • “Judge, thank you first and foremost for your time and assistance. When it appeared we were on the brink, your assistance proved most beneficial with my client.”
    • “It was a pleasure using your services. I firmly believe that without your input, the matter would not have reached resolution.”
    • “I want to express my sincere gratitude for your efforts in helping the parties reach a settlement on Wednesday. From my limited experience, it is very difficult to reach an early settlement for the high emotions/low damages cases like this one. I'm confident that we would not have been able to reach a resolution without your assistance. Thank you for your patience and perseverance. It was a true pleasure and I hope to have the opportunity to work with you in the future.”
    • “I know we all truly appreciate your efforts in preparing for and facilitating our mediation session yesterday. Thank you for helping us resolve this matter.”
    • “Thanks very much for your work on this case Judge. I think it was an amazing feat to get this one resolved and think you deserve all the credit for dealing with a difficult situation.”
    • “Thanks for all of your assistance in achieving the settlement yesterday. As always, it was a very positive experience working with JAMS, and I too look forward to the opportunity to work with you in the future.”
    • “Thanks again for your great work yesterday. I see that the diligence and commitment that you exhibited when you were on the bench have continued in your role as mediator. I look forward to our next meeting.”
    • "We all believe that your patience, knowledge of the subject matter, and ability to recognize and account for the enormous practical complications, were critical to getting this matter resolved. [My client] felt heard and respected. Her feelings and thoughts had to precede any resolution. It also didn’t hurt a bit that you maintained a pleasant demeanor and sense of humor throughout the in-person session and post session calls, even when at your wits end in dealing with counsel. Thank you for your hard work. It was a pleasure working with you. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you again in the future."



Practice Areas

  • Arbitration
  • Business/Commercial
  • Construction
  • Construction Defect
  • Engineering and Construction
  • Federal Law


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