Chuck Geerhart is a founding partner of Paoli & Geerhart and was admitted to the California bar in 1989, and is a graduate of Cornell University and the UCLA Law School.
Chuck has tried 15 cases to jury verdict. He has also sat as a juror in three cases in San Francisco County. In addition to his active practice representing injured people, Chuck regularly sits as a Judge pro tem of the San Francisco Superior Court and is a court-appointed arbitrator and settlement mediator. Chuck also conducts private mediations and arbitrations. From 2004 through 2012, Chuck Geerhart was a member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, and remains an Emeritus Director.
A San Francisco resident since 1989, Chuck Geerhart grew up in the Washington, D.C., area where he attended public schools. He was an Eagle Scout and worked three summers as a staffer at Goshen Scout Camps in rural Virginia. He received a Naval ROTC full four-year scholarship to attend Cornell University from 1977-81. At Cornell, Chuck majored in English literature and was a staff writer and columnist for The Cornell Daily Sun. This background in writing, both academically and as a journalist, prepared him well to write clear, concise and persuasive legal briefs.
Upon graduating from Cornell, Chuck was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy Supply Corps. After supply school in Athens, GA, he reported for duty as disbursing and food service officer on the USS Sylvania (AFS 2) homeported in Norfolk, VA. This tour from 1982-84 took Chuck on repeated deployments to various ports in the Mediterranean Sea. After his sea tour, Chuck was promoted to Lieutenant and served his last year in his four-year commitment to the Navy as an aviation supply officer at Moffett Field Naval Air Station, Mountain View, CA.
After leaving the Navy, Chuck attended the UCLA School of Law, where he was a member of the Moot Court Honors Program and was a summer clerk at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and several law firms.
After graduation from UCLA, Chuck passed the bar and moved back to the Bay Area to work for Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, one the leading civil defense firms in California. There, he cut his teeth on a wide variety of defense cases, including groundwater contamination, construction defect, product liability, construction injury cases, and numerous automobile accident cases. He learned the law of product liability while defending The Stanley Works in automatic door cases and defending PG&E in a massive power plant explosion and asbestos release caused by the rupture of a defective product (a desuperheating steam attemperator). There were over 400 plaintiffs in this case.
In 1995, Chuck made the move to a smaller defense firm, Arnelle Hastie McGee, which at the time was the largest minority-owned firm in California. He continued to handle civil defense cases, and became a partner of the firm. Much of his work at the Arnelle firm involved defending Ford Motor Company in product liability cases, including two trials. It was as a result of this work and subsequent work for plaintiffs that Chuck became an expert in product liability law.
In late 1997, Chuck Geerhart and Tom Paoli had a long talk about forming their own law firm. In early 1998, Paoli & Geerhart was born, handling mostly automobile and premises liability cases, with Chuck Geerhart continuing to do some defense work. In 1999, Chuck’s practice became 100% representation of injured people. Here is his philosophy:
“I love representing individual people. I look back now on my years as a defense lawyer as valuable training and absolutely necessary in showing me what it’s like to represent companies and insurance interests. It’s made me a better lawyer now, because I understand how the other side (my opponent) thinks. I can get inside my opponents’ heads and figure out where they are going with a case. My defense history also makes me incredibly grateful to be representing and helping injured people. When I succeed for my clients now, I know I have made a difference in a real person’s life.”
Most of Chuck’s roughly 20 trials have been for plaintiffs. In addition to work with Paoli & Geerhart, Chuck volunteers pro bono for the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Legal Advice and Referral Clinic, which helps hundreds of citizens who cannot afford legal advice.
Chuck serves as a Judge pro tem of the San Francisco Superior Court, and regularly takes the bench to rule on motions. Chuck also gives of his time as a court appointed arbitrator and settlement mediator in the San Francisco Superior Court, and also mediates cases on a private basis. This makes him a better advocate for his own clients in mediations and settlement conferences.
Chuck Geerhart was a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association (SFTLA), and remains a Director Emeritus. As a leader in the plaintiff’s bar, Chuck helps plan programs and attends all major educational and training events run by SFTLA. He is a regular writer for the SFTLA magazine (see link to articles on this website).
Chuck lives with his wife, Cathy, and dogs, Hogan and Chip, in San Francisco’s Crocker Amazon neighborhood. In his free time, he hikes and jogs throughout the McLaren Park and San Bruno Mountain trails. He enjoys live music, especially classic rock and jam bands of the 1960s. He’s a news and pop culture junkie- don’t get him started on these subjects. He and his wife also enjoy camping and backpacking.
Chuck receiving an award as an outstanding volunteer in public service from California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron George.
In 2011, Chuck was again honored for his pro bono community service. Pictured with Chuck are Judge Katherine Feinstein, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and Judge Terrence Mahoney.