• Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., magna cum laude, 1980)

  • The Ohio State University (B.A., summa cum laude, 1977)

Memberships & Affiliations

  • Media Law Resource Center, Trial Practice Committee (past Co-Chair)

Honors & Distinctions

  • Recognized by Chambers USA as a leading lawyer in First Amendment Litigation nationwide and in Media & Entertainment in Washington, DC

  • Recognized by The Best Lawyers in America as a top First Amendment, First Amendment Litigation, and Media lawyer and as the 2012 Washington, DC Media Law Lawyer of the Year

  • Recognized by Washington, DC Super Lawyers in Media & Advertising

Selected Publications

  • "Survey of Maryland Privacy and Related Claims Against the Media," in Annual Media Privacy & Related Law Survey (Media Law Resource Center) (with C. Bowman)

  • Developments in West Virginia Insurance Bad Faith Law, 98 West Virginia Law Review 267 (1995) (with R. Ross and C. Blair)

Michael D. Sullivan

Michael is one of the founding partners of LSKS and has represented journalists, newspapers, syndicated columnists, production companies, networks, and news sources in high stakes libel, privacy, entertainment, and copyright cases for over 30 years.

Among other landmark cases, he represented columnist Jack Anderson in the successful defense of a libel suit by the self-described Liberty Lobby. Among his notable media trials, he served as lead trial counsel for a Minneapolis TV station, obtaining a defense verdict after a six-week jury trial in a libel suit filed by a widow who claimed she had been falsely accused of murdering her husband.

Best Lawyers has reported that “Michael Sullivan is probably the best jury-trial lawyer for a media defendant bar none,” a view echoed by The Legal 500, which has written that “clients consider him one of the best jury trial lawyers in the country.” Chambers USA has reported that clients have called Sullivan “a great, great lawyer.” Jack Anderson’s memoir describes Michael as “the soft-spoken Sullivan, a ferocious defender of the First Amendment.”

Michael has taught media law as an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and at the University of Maryland College of Journalism.

Prior to founding LSKS, Michael was a partner at Ross, Dixon & Masback, L.L.P. He began his legal career at White & Case in Washington, DC.

Notable Matters

Jankovic v. International Crisis Group, 822 F.3d 576 (D.C. Cir. 2016). Michael led a team to victories in the trial and appellate courts on behalf of International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflicts around the globe, in a long-running case brought by Serbian businessman Philip Zepter. Zepter claimed that he was defamed in a Crisis Group report analyzing the political turmoil in Serbia following the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic and the assassination of the country’s new prime minister. Following extensive discovery and numerous judicial proceedings spanning multiple countries on two continents, the district court granted summary judgment for Crisis Group, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed. In a unanimous opinion, the D.C. Circuit held that Zepter, the billionaire supporter and friend of the late prime minister, was a limited purpose public figure whose claims could not proceed given that his attempts to show clear and convincing evidence of actual malice failed.

Kendall v. Daily News Publishing Co., 716 F.3d 82 (3d Cir. 2013). Michael served as lead trial and appellate counsel for the Virgin Islands Daily News in a defamation suit by a local judge. Following a two-week jury trial, the trial court entered judgment in the newspaper’s favor. That decision was affirmed by the Virgin Islands Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which issued a significant ruling detailing the requirements public officials must meet when they claim to be defamed by alleged implications.

Stepnes v. Ritschel, 663 F.3d 952 (8th Cir. 2011). Michael and his LSKS colleagues successfully defended a CBS television station in an action alleging defamation and interference with contract claims arising from a news report on a developer’s “home give-away contest,” including his arrest on a charge of unlawful gambling. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the ruling that the plaintiff was a limited-purpose public figure because he had voluntarily thrust himself to the forefront of the pre-existing controversy over the legality of the contest. The court further held that the plaintiff could not satisfy his burden to prove actual malice and that some of the challenged statements were substantially true.

OAO Alfa-Bank v. Center for Public Integrity, 387 F. Supp. 2d 20 (D.D.C. 2005). Michael led a team of LSKS attorneys in successfully defending the Center for Public Integrity in a libel suit brought by prominent Russian “oligarchs” arising from a report linking them to criminal activities during Russia's turbulent transition to a capitalist economy.

Towler v. Sayles, 76 F.3d 579 (4th Cir. 1996). Michael served as lead trial counsel for award-winning director John Sayles and Miramax Films in a copyright infringement action arising from the highly acclaimed motion picture Passion Fish. After a one-week jury trial, the court entered judgment as a matter of law for the defendants, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

  • Michael D. Sullivan
  • Partner
  • 1899 L Street, NW
    Suite 200
    Washington, DC 20036

Bar & Court Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • U.S. Supreme Court

  • U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, and District of Columbia Circuits

  • U.S. District Courts for the District of Columbia and the District of Maryland