Michael Sutherlin

Michael Sutherlin Full Biography


I attended a local high school, Sacred Heart, on the south side of Indianapolis.
Upon graduation I attended the University of Texas in Austin on a full Navy ROTC Scholarship.  My undergraduate studies began in aerospace engineering but I changed majors and received a BBA in industrial management in 1967.

While in the Navy I was assigned to the USS Sutter County and deployed twice to Viet Nam with a ship operating on the DaNang River and along the coast to the DMZ.  I was the engineering officer and was promoted to lieutenant before leaving the Navy to attend law school in 1971.

I graduated from Indiana University Law School, Indianapolis in 1974, and I launched a statewide practice which primarily focuses on constitutional and civil rights litigation.

I am a member of the following bar associations:  The Indianapolis Bar Association, The Indiana Bar Association, The Federal Bar Association for the Southern District of Indiana, The Federal Bar Association for the Northern District of Indiana, and The Seventh Circuit Bar Association in Chicago. I am also a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.


I have litigated approximately 350 cases and have extensive trial experience in federal and state court.  I have argued approximately 50 cases before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago and many cases before the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court.

I have presented at least ten or more continuing legal education programs, and have served as a chariman of master's seminars on advanced constitutuion litigation practice.

I have been invited to present to law enforcement groups, law student classes, and in the past was chairman of the International Law Section of the Indianapolis Bar Association.

In 1990, I argued the case of Burns v. Reed before the U.S. Supreme Court, setting an important precedent, denying prosecutors immunity in some instances.


I am a charter member of Local Adoption Group 317 of Amnesty International which was installed in 1984.

I have received recognition by Indianapolis Monthly Magazine as a top civil rights lawyer in 1993.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana has given me two distinguished practitioner awards.

I have been on the board of the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC). In addition, I was appointed by Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon and later Governor Joseph Kernan to the Environmental Quality Legislative Services Task Force.

I volunteered for over fifteen years in the Big Brother program and was matched with three little brothers during that period. 

I am currently on the board of Health Care Education and Training (HCET), an Indianapolis-based organization that addresses reproductive health, and have served on the board approximately six years. 

After challenging the operation of one of the state's psychiatric hospitals through federal litigation, the State of Indiana eventually closed this institution. I was then invited to serve on the state board of the Indiana State Mental Health Association and served as vice-president of public policy for three years.

In 1993, the mayor of Indianapolis formed a special citizen task force to address police brutality and other misconduct. I served on that board for two years.


I have traveled extensively when my father served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, and during my professional career, have attended Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland to study international law and participated in an international civil rights and humanitarian law seminar in Guatemala.  I have traveled to several Central American and South American countries including Mexico, the island of Cozumel, Belize, and the Cayman Islands.  I have traveled to Europe on several occasions, to Africa, and within the last two years traveled with a multicultural group to Jordan and Israel.