Stephen J. van Stempvoort

Steve van Stempvoort chairs both the firm’s appellate practice group and its pro bono committee. Steve also litigates strategic lawsuits that either seek to establish or correct precedent, building the litigation strategy through the trial court and into any ensuing appeal. Although his practice spans various aspects of appellate and complex commercial litigation, Steve’s particular expertise is in constitutional law, governmental liability, and new technology issues, including litigation and appeals related to defamation, online speech, discrimination, civil rights, and criminal defense.

In his appellate practice, Steve has successfully represented clients in numerous state and federal courts of appeal, including in the Supreme Court of the United States. He also cultivates an active amicus practice in various appellate courts.

Some of Steve’s representative matters include:

  • Counsel of record for successful petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States, resulting in favorable remand;
  • Prevailed in landmark Michigan Supreme Court ruling regarding Michigan’s separation of powers doctrine;
  • Won a unanimous reversal from the Fourth Circuit on a jurisdictional issue of first impression involving the Federal Arbitration Act;
  • Obtained a unanimous reversal in the Michigan Supreme Court on an issue of statutory retroactivity;
  • Secured a unanimous reversal from the Sixth Circuit of trial court’s adverse ruling in an excessive-force civil-rights case;
  • Won entitlement to charitable tax exemptions on behalf of religious educational organization;
  • Won reversal of the trial court and an order directing entry of habeas relief for a criminal defendant on appeal in the Sixth Circuit when the government conceded error after our opening brief was filed;
  • Obtained full dismissal of a federal appeal involving millions of dollars in damages;
  • Secured a reversal of criminal forfeiture order from the Fourth Circuit;
  • Prevailed in the Fourth Circuit on a first-impression sentencing issue, resulting in vacatur of sentence and remand for resentencing;
  • Won, as part of the trial team, a $9.6 million judgment in a jury trial on a bad-faith insurance claim on behalf of an international corporation.

As chair of Miller Johnson’s pro bono committee, Steve also maintains an active pro bono practice. In the spirit of the First Amendment, Steve has represented clients from across the political and ideological spectrum, including human trafficking survivors, undocumented immigrants, incarcerated prisoners, a domestic-violence shelter, an open-air preacher, a national non-profit, members of the clergy, and various individuals seeking to expunge criminal convictions or reinstate social privileges. Some of the appellate matters that Steve has taken on pro bono include a Fourth Circuit appeal on behalf of a juvenile offender who pleaded guilty after being threatened with the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison, a Ninth Circuit appeal asserting a first-impression challenge to aspects of the statute-of-limitations regime applying to prisoner civil-rights lawsuits, and a state-court appeal seeking access under the Freedom of Information Act to a local law enforcement agency’s use-of-force policy.

Steve was recognized as one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s “Up & Coming Lawyers” for 2020 and has been identified as one of Best Lawyers’ “Ones to Watch” in successive years.

Steve currently serves on the Sixth Circuit’s Advisory Rules Committee and on the Board of the American Bar Association Judicial Division’s Council of Appellate Lawyers.

Before joining Miller Johnson, Steve served as a judicial law clerk to the Hon. Richard Allen Griffin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He also served as a judicial law clerk to the Hon. Glen E. Conrad of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

Steve earned his law degree from William and Mary Law School, where the faculty selected him on the basis of his professional promise as a recipient of the Lawrence W. I’Anson Award—the highest honor conferred on a graduating student. Among other pursuits, Steve previously taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.