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Michelle Liguori is an appellate and business litigation attorney in the Raleigh office of Ellis & Winters. Her practice focuses on appeals, class actions, and other complex business disputes. She is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Appellate Practice. Michelle also serves as Ellis & Winters’s hiring partner and has been on the firm’s Associate Development Committee.

Before joining Ellis & Winters, Michelle spent three years helping federal judges decide appeals as a staff attorney and law clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She later worked for the Solicitor General’s Office at the North Carolina Department of Justice, handling civil and criminal appeals in the state and federal appellate courts. 

In private practice, Michelle regularly handles appeals in the Fourth Circuit, North Carolina Court of Appeals, and North Carolina Supreme Court, and she has briefed several petitions before the United States Supreme Court. Michelle’s appellate practice has spanned a broad array of subject matters, including arbitration disputes, medical malpractice, land use, consumer protection matters, estate litigation, and criminal law. She is a member of the Fourth Circuit’s Criminal Justice Act panel, and on the appointments list for the North Carolina Office of the Appellate Defender. 

Michelle’s trial court practice focuses on class actions, other complex commercial disputes, and section 1983 litigation. Michelle has significant experience litigating in the North Carolina Business Court, which includes briefing and arguing several issues of first impression and trying an LLC dispute to jury verdict. She is a founding member of Best in Class, Ellis & Winters’s class action blog, and she regularly writes and edits articles for the blog. 

Michelle is actively involved in the legal community, both locally and nationally. She is on the North Carolina Bar Association’s Appellate Section Council, serves as Appellate Subcommittee Chair for the American Bar Association’s Class Actions and Derivative Suits Committee, and is on the Bar Candidate Interview Committee for the Wake County Bar Association. She also is a graduate of the International Association of Defense Counsel’s Trial Academy (2022).

In addition to her law practice, Michelle has been an adjunct professor at Duke Law School, where she has taught legal and scholarly writing, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Harvard Club of the Research Triangle, and she was a Fulbright Fellow in Egypt.



  • J.D., Harvard Law School, 2012
    • Honors: cum laude
  • B.A., Amherst College, 2006


  • Board-Certified Specialist in Appellate Law, North Carolina State Bar

Court Admissions

  • North Carolina
  • New York
  • Eastern District of North Carolina
  • Middle District of North Carolina
  • Western District of North Carolina
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • United States Supreme Court

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • North Carolina Bar Association, Appellate Practice Section
  • Wake County Bar Association, Bar Candidate Interview Committee
  • American Bar Association, Litigation Section, Class Actions and Derivative Suits Committee
  • Defense Research Institute, Appellate Advocacy Committee



  • Appealed, in medical malpractice matter, trial court’s denial of motion to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds, which implicated constitutionality of 2011 tort reform. Obtained reversal on the briefs in the North Carolina Court of Appeals; briefed and argued plaintiff’s appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which affirmed.
  • Obtained resentencing in Fourth Circuit criminal appeal for defendant sentenced to 200 months in prison, giving him an opportunity to present argument for mitigating role adjustment and more significant downward departure. (Government moved to remand for resentencing after opening brief was filed.)
  • Served as embedded appellate counsel on trial team in tort litigation involving high stakes challenge to client’s business model.
  • Filed amicus brief on behalf of the Carolinas Credit Union League in North Carolina Supreme Court appeal involving enforceability of arbitration clause in putative class action.
  • Filed petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court in Kim v. United States, which garnered amicus support from Duke University Law Professor Brandon L. Garrett and the Wilson Center for Science and Justice.
  • Briefed and argued criminal appeal in North Carolina Court of Appeals involving constitutional challenges to state stalking statute, obtaining affirmance of favorable trial court ruling.
  • Briefed and argued criminal appeal in North Carolina Court of Appeals involving motion to suppress and related civil judgment; obtained vacatur of civil judgment.
  • Briefed appeals before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and petitions before the North Carolina Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court on motion to compel arbitration in putative class action.
  • Briefed appeals before the North Carolina Court of Appeals and North Carolina Supreme Court involving issues of first impression regarding interpretation of statutes governing debt buyer collections activity.
  • Briefed appeals in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and North Carolina Supreme Court raising matters of first impression under the North Carolina Trust Code.
  • Briefed appeal and petition for discretionary review in North Carolina Supreme Court matter involving application of Rule 45(d1) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure.
  • Wrote prevailing Fourth Circuit brief defending against section 1983 claims and constitutional challenges to state occupational licensing statute.
  • Advised on appellate strategy in Fourth Circuit appeals involving North Carolina parole procedures for juvenile offenders and section 1983 action involving vacated convictions.

Class Actions

  • Represent employer in putative class action raising claims under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act.
  • Represent national retailer in North Carolina putative class action raising federal claims under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.
  • Represent home builder in putative class raising breach of contract claims.
  • Represent debt buyer in putative class action involving statutory requirements for collections activity.
  • Represent assisted living facility in class action involving breach of contract claims.
  • Represented employer in putative class and California Private Attorney General Act action.
  • Represented landlord against putative class action involving recovery of litigation costs for eviction actions.
  • Advised universities on potential class-action ramifications of decision-making related to COVID-19.


  • Represent minority member of limited liability company in dispute with majority member. Obtained temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, defeated motion to dismiss and defensive motion for summary judgment, obtained summary judgment on counterclaim, and tried matter to jury verdict, prevailing on breach of contract claims.
  • Defend police officers on Selective Enforcement Unit in several lawsuits bringing section 1983 claims, successfully obtaining dismissal of claims against these officers.
  • Successfully briefed and argued issue of first impression in North Carolina Business Court related to enforcement of LLC member’s information rights.
  • Represented defendant against allegations of theft of trade secrets, fraud, and related claims. Successfully briefed and argued opposition to third-party defendants’ motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings.
  • Successfully petitioned for release of third party’s property being held for criminal trial under North Carolina General Statute section 15-11.1(a).



  • Best Lawyers in America, “Ones to Watch,” Appellate Practice 2021-2024, Commercial Litigation 2024
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers Magazine, Appellate, Rising Stars, (2022, 2023, 2024)
  • Business North Carolina, Legal Elite, Appellate, 2022, 2024