Michael L. Banks litigates employment, benefits, commercial, professional liability, intellectual property, and personal injury issues in US state and federal courts. He has tried more than 50 cases—including class, collective, and multiplaintiff actions—for some of the firm’s largest clients, tallying a broad array of victories in courts and arbitrations around the United States. He has also litigated and won numerous injunction cases in trade secret and noncompetition disputes, including hotly contested matters against some of the largest and most recognized law firms.
Active in pro bono work and civic organizations, Michael is a past president of the board of directors of the Support Center for Child Advocates, which coordinates the representation of abused and neglected children. He also is a past member of the board of Need in Deed, a Philadelphia-based service-learning organization, and a recipient of the American Bar Association’s Frances Perkins Award for Pro Bono Service.
Michael has been particularly active in pro bono death penalty cases. In 1989, he and Morgan Lewis partner Gordon Cooney undertook the representation of John Thompson, who had been sentenced to death by a state court in New Orleans. The representation spanned 14 years of postconviction proceedings in state and federal courts in Louisiana and led to a new trial for Mr. Thompson. After Michael’s closing argument at the 2003 retrial, the jury deliberated for just 35 minutes before acquitting Mr. Thompson, an innocent man who walked out of jail as a free man for the first time since 1985. Michael and Gordon followed that victory with a civil rights lawsuit against the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office, in which they won a $14 million jury verdict for Thompson. The verdict was affirmed by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit but overturned by a sharply divided US Supreme Court based on a disputed application of municipal liability law. The case is the subject of an award-winning book and a CNN documentary.
In 2007, Michael and partners George Cumming and Molly Lane took on the representation of Cathy Henderson, who was convicted of the murder of a child 12 years earlier and sentenced to death. The Morgan Lewis team marshaled a strong cadre of expert witnesses, showing that the prosecution’s case was based on flawed science. A stay was granted less than 48 hours before the scheduled execution, and a new trial was granted. Ms. Henderson is awaiting retrial in Austin, Texas.
Chambers USA called Michael an “accomplished, knowledgeable, and sophisticated lawyer who is amazing on his feet in court.” He was named “Litigator of the Week” by The American Lawyer in 2009, and he is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and as one of the “Top 100 Lawyers” in Pennsylvania by Super Lawyers. His cases have been featured on the front pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and in numerous other publications and media.
Michael has lectured extensively on trial advocacy, including as an instructor in Temple University’s Beasley School of Law LL.M. (Master of Laws) degree program in trial advocacy for practicing attorneys. He also has served as a faculty member of the Academy of Trial Advocacy, which conducts trial training programs.
Columbia Law School, 1981, J.D.
Cornell University, 1978, A.B.
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 11th Circuits
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania
U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut
Awards and Affiliations
Recognized, Leading US Corporate Employment Lawyer, Lawdragon 500 (2020, 2021)
Inducted into American College of Trial Lawyers
Recognized, The Best Lawyers in America (2004–2020)
Recognized, Most Powerful Employment Attorneys, Human Resources Executive (2012–2015, 2017–2019)
Hall of Fame, Labor and employment: Labor and employment disputes (including collective actions): defense, The Legal 500 US (2020, 2021)
Leading Lawyer, Labor and employment: Labor and employment disputes (including collective actions): defense, The Legal 500 US (2014–2019)
Recommended, Labor and employment: Workplace and employment counseling, The Legal 500 US (2018, 2019)