Judge Martha Geer is a Partner at Cohen Milstein and head of the firm’s new Raleigh, North Carolina office.  She joined the firm in May 2016 after a distinguished career on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  Judge Geer's background – almost two decades as a respected litigator and appellate advocate handling complex civil litigation followed by more than 13 years as a rarely-reversed appellate judge – is a composite of experience few attorneys have.  Her combined litigation and judicial experience gives her a unique perspective and insight that will benefit her clients at the trial level and on appeal.  In returning to private practice, Judge Geer will practice across all of the firm's areas of expertise, working at both the trial and the appellate levels.
 
Judge Geer was first elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2002, receiving more than a million votes statewide.  In 2010, because of her reputation as a fair and impartial judge, she garnered bipartisan support that resulted in her winning re-election by a 20-point margin.  During her tenure on the Court, Judge Geer has heard more than 3,800 appeals, authored more than 1,350 opinions, and had her opinions  reversed less than 2% of the time.  As one of the most experienced Court of Appeals judges, Judge Geer has been responsible for hearing and deciding appeals on a wide variety of issues involving almost every area of law.  She also served on the Court's Executive Committee, which works with the Chief Judge in administration of the Court.  During her service on the Court, she was named Outstanding Appellate Judge by the North Carolina Advocates for Justice.  
 
Judge Geer's time on the bench has enhanced her ability to understand what judges – trial and appellate – need and want to know in order for clients to prevail at both the trial and appellate levels. Because of the similarity of intermediate appellate courts across jurisdictions, her experience and knowledge gained in North Carolina is valuable in litigation and appeals pending in all jurisdictions including the federal courts, making her a unique resource for clients.  In addition, Judge Geer's reputation as an intelligent, practical, fair, and unbiased judge increases her credibility when arguing before other judges whether at the trial level or on appeal.
 

Illustrating the diversity of practice areas involved in her opinions, in Boyd v. Robeson County, Judge Geer wrote an opinion holding in a case of first impression for North Carolina that the office of a county sheriff is a "person" that may be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, allowing an inmate to sue for violation of her Eighth Amendment rights when a jail failed to provide medical treatment after her appendix burst.  In another opinion authored by Judge Geer, Diggs v. Novant Health Inc., the Court held, again in a case of first impression, that a hospital could be liable under an apparent agency theory for the negligence of independent contractor anesthesiologists.  In Mason v. Dwinnell, Judge Geer's opinion held that a trial court had authority, under the federal constitution, to award custody of a child, including visitation, to a same-sex domestic partner who was not a legal parent of the child.  Judge Geer's opinion in Blinson v. State upheld the constitutionality, under the federal and state constitutions, of economic tax incentives granted to corporations in order to bring jobs to the State.   

Prior to going on the bench, Judge Geer was a partner with two leading North Carolina plaintiffs' firms and was one of the founders of the second firm.  She was  a highly respected trial and appellate litigator known for obtaining cutting-edge and  precedent-setting victories in a diverse set of  practice areas, including among others, securities litigation, labor and employment law, ERISA, antitrust and trade regulation, commercial litigation, consumer protection, and constitutional and civil rights litigation (including suits against the State, sheriffs, counties, and municipalities).  She was selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America, and recognized by the journal Business North Carolina as one of North Carolina’s “Legal Elite” – a list of the top 200 lawyers in the State.

Judge Geer began her legal career with Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison where she was taught that a bright, hardworking lawyer, willing to learn, can handle any type of litigation – a philosophy that led to her eclectic practice upon leaving Paul Weiss.  While at Paul Weiss, she had the privilege of working with nationally-respected litigators, including legal icons such as Arthur Liman, on high profile cases including the litigation arising out of the attempt to corner the silver market in 1979-1980.  She also gained experience defending shareholder derivative and corporate takeover litigation.  Judge Geer did substantial pro bono work, including being part of a team that obtained a stay of execution on behalf of a mentally retarded man on death row who was subsequently shown to be innocent by DNA testing, once such testing finally became available.  That work led to her being one of the recipients of the 2004 Dybwad Humanitarian Award, the highest honor of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

As both a judge and a lawyer, Judge Geer has worked to improve the quality of legal representation through service on the Appellate Specialization Committee of the North Carolina State Bar, the Appellate Rules Committee of the North Carolina Bar Association, the Board of Governors of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and various committees of the American Bar Association and other bar association groups.  She is also a highly sought after teacher of continuing education programs for both other judges and lawyers.

Judge Geer received her B.A. summa cum laude from Bryn Mawr College and her J.D. with high honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law where she was a Morehead Fellow and served as Managing Editor of the North Carolina Law Review.

  • Judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals, 2002-2016
  • Founding Partner, Patterson, Harkavy & Lawrence LLP, 1991-2002
  • Partner and Associate, Smith, Patterson, Follin, Curtis, James, Harkavy & Lawrence, 1986-1991
  • Associate, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, 1983-1986
  • American Bar Association: Past Co-Chair of Ethics in Litigation Subcommittee of the Employee Rights and Responsibilities Committee
  • North Carolina Bar Association: Member, Litigation Section Council, Appellate Rules Committee; Past Member, Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities Council, Labor & Employment Law Council, Trial Practice Curriculum Committee
  • North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers: Past Member, Board of Governors
  • North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys