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Ellis & Winters has a discerning, dynamic, and diverse appellate team that has handled well over a hundred appeals in the North Carolina Court of Appeals, North Carolina Supreme Court, Fourth Circuit, United States Supreme Court, and other appellate courts throughout the country.  The firm’s appellate lawyers— both veterans of the practice and up and coming talent at various stages of their careers—are highly skilled brief writers and practiced oral advocates.  

Members of Ellis & Winters’s appellate team are regularly hired as appellate counsel—sometimes to take up adverse rulings on appeal and other times to defend favorable trial-court outcomes.  They also handle their own appeals from matters they litigated in trial court and assist other litigators at the firm with briefing and arguing high-stakes appellate matters.  In addition, the firm’s attorneys have been retained by lawyers outside of Ellis & Winters to serve as embedded appellate counsel while matters are proceeding in trial court, including to assist with briefing high-stakes motions and preserving the record for appeal.

Ellis & Winters includes among its ranks a board-certified appellate specialist and former clerks for the North Carolina Supreme Court, the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and the Third, Fourth, and Eleventh Circuits.  This collective experience gives the team deep insight into how best to frame written and oral arguments to persuade appellate jurists.  The firm’s lawyers are known for their insightful, creative approach to difficult legal issues, straightforward approach to presenting the law, and refined and focused arguments. 

Our appellate lawyers are frequently retained to write amicus curiae briefs, to present the perspectives of non-party clients on important legal issues, and to aid the appellate courts in their decision-making.

Ellis & Winters’s appellate practice earned a Tier 1 ranking in Chambers USA, while Benchmark Litigation awarded the firm’s appellate practice a rating of “Highly Recommended.”


The firm takes pride in its leadership within the national and state appellate bar.  Founding partner Paul Sun has served as the Rules Editor for the American Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Journal.  Partner Michelle Liguori is board certified as an Appellate Specialist by the North Carolina State Bar and regularly serves as a speaker at annual appellate practice CLE programs.   Michelle Liguori and partner Scottie Lee are members of the Section Council of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Appellate Practice Section.  Scottie Lee also represents the firm on the North Carolina Appellate Rules Committee—the committee that advises the North Carolina Supreme Court on rules of appellate procedure.

In 2013 and 2019, Paul Sun was named Raleigh “Lawyer of the Year” for Appellate Practice by Best Lawyers in America.  Other partners at the firm, including Jon Sasser, Kelly Dagger, and Michelle Liguori, have consistently been recognized for Appellate Practice by Best Lawyers in America, Business North Carolina Legal Elite, and/or North Carolina Super Lawyers Magazine.

Ellis & Winters attorneys devote many hundreds of hours each year to appointed criminal appeals, providing high-quality representation to indigent clients while deepening the firm’s presence before state and federal appellate judges.  Three of the firm’s partners—Paul Sun, Kelly Dagger, and Michelle Liguori—are on the Fourth Circuit’s Criminal Justice Act panel, and Paul and Michelle have served on the Fourth Circuit’s Criminal Justice Act Panel Committee, which acts as an advisory board to the Court, making recommendations on applications for panel membership, panel administration, and other questions arising under the Criminal Justice Act.  Michelle also serves as appointed counsel for criminal defendants in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and North Carolina Supreme Court.  In addition, the firm regularly takes pro bono appointments as appellate counsel through North Carolina’s Guardian ad Litem program.

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