Geoghegan, James (1886–1951), politician and judge, was born 8 December 1886 in Walshestown, Co. Westmeath, one of two children of farmers Thomas Geoghegan and Bridget Geoghegan (née Carney). Educated at the CBS at Mullingar, he qualified as a solicitor in 1907 after an apprenticeship with E. A. Shaw of Mullingar. He later practised in Mullingar, Castleblayney, and Ballybay, before being called to the Irish bar in 1915 and the English bar in 1923. Initially attached to the north-western circuit, he became a highly regarded counsel and criminal lawyer. He took silk in 1925 and as a senior barrister advised Fianna Fáil on the payment of land annuities during the 1920s. Having taken no part in the Anglo-Irish war or the civil war, Geoghegan joined Cumann na nGaedheal in the early 1920s and remained a member until 1930, when he joined Fianna Fáil; he was elected TD for Longford-Westmeath in a by-election in June that year.
In March 1932 Éamon de Valera (qv) tactfully appointed the non-combatant Geoghegan to the sensitive office of minister for justice. After Geoghegan and Frank Aiken (qv) received their seals of office, they went immediately to Arbour Hill prison to arrange the release of all political prisoners. Described by Conor Brady as ‘mild-mannered [and] almost self-effacing’, he was worsted in clashes with Eoin O'Duffy (qv). His command of the legal complexities of the land annuities issue led to his involvement, with de Valera, in talks with the British government in June and October 1932. In December 1932 Geoghegan told a deputation of catholic bishops that he favoured legislation, in accord with the best catholic practice and teaching, that would restrict the sale of contraceptives and introduce greater control over dance halls. However, another election was called before such legislation could be introduced and, partly due to his unpopularity with the grass roots of the Fianna Fáil party, Geoghegan returned to the back benches in February 1933. On 2 November 1936 he was appointed attorney general and during his fifty-one days in office he advised the government on the Courts of Justice Bill (1935), the Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Bill (1936), and the External Relations Bill (1936). His term ended when he was appointed to the supreme court, but de Valera continued to seek his counsel, most notably in 1937 on the draft constitution. In April 1950 Geoghegan retired from the bench owing to ill health.
Outside the law and politics Geoghegan devoted much of his time to philanthropic organisations. He was a member of the executive council of the Catholic Truth Society (from 1925); he was also chairman of the patents commission (1936) and commissioner of charitable donations. In 1928 he married Eileen Murphy, younger daughter of James Murphy, solicitor, of Clyde Road, Dublin, and granddaughter of James Baldwin Murphy KC. They had two sons, one of whom, Hugh Geoghegan, was appointed judge of the supreme court (13 March 2000). The family lived at 68 Fitzwilliam Square and later at Carne Lodge, Cowper Gardens, Rathmines, Dublin. Geoghegan died 27 March 1951 in Dublin, leaving estate valued at £12,040.