Professional Biography

Michael L. Bender Partner

  • Denver

    D +1.303.291.2300

    F +1.303.291.2400


    1900 Sixteenth Street, Suite 1400

    Denver, CO




Michael L. Bender is a former Justice and Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, and a former noted civil and criminal trial lawyer for 20 years who tried more than 50 jury trials in state and federal courts.  Mike has also been an adjunct member of the University of Colorado Law and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law teaching trial advocacy and professional ethics.  First, as a trial lawyer, and then as a justice, Mike was a leader in the profession and received numerous honors including the University of Colorado Law School's most prestigious alumni award.  He has also been recognized for his judicial leadership by the Colorado chapter of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, and the Colorado Judicial Institute.

As Chief and Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, Mike spearheaded a number of initiatives for the state and the legal profession, including reorganization of the attorney and judicial disciplinary systems.  He encouraged the civil action pilot program in the Denver Metropolitan area designed to provide a less expensive forum for the resolution of civil disputes; established a leadership training program for the statewide leaders of the judicial branch; created the Chief's Commission on the Legal Profession; started a procedural fairness initiative for the courts; encouraged access to the court system for indigent civil litigants by seeking legislative authorization of pro se coordinators in each judicial district; increased the practice of evidence-based sentencing in criminal cases, and oversaw the design and construction of the new Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center.  During his tenure on the court, Mike authored approximately 300 separate opinions and, as Chief, supervised 3600 employees, including 330 judges in twenty-two districts, and oversaw the state judicial budget of approximately $400 million.

Now, at Perkins Coie, Mike's practice involves commercial litigation, white collar criminal defense, internal investigations, and appeals.

Litigation Experience

Before joining the Colorado Supreme Court, Mike was in private practice for more than 20 years. He represented numerous individuals and private and public entities in civil and criminal matters throughout Colorado and the nation.

One noteworthy case he prosecuted successfully was a class action claim in federal district court on behalf of women, African-Americans and Hispanics seeking jobs as Denver police officers. The trial court's order and subsequent consent decree (Hogue v. Bach), is still in effect today - more than 40 years later. He also acted as the court-appointed attorney to represent the lead defendant in the civil rights homicide of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg.

Prior to private practice, he served as a trial lawyer as Chief Public Defender for Jefferson County, CO; Associate Regional Attorney, Denver Regional Litigation Center of the EEOC; and Chief Deputy State Public Defender in Denver.

He also spent a year in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP's Labor Department in Los Angeles, CA in 1977.

Professional Leadership

Throughout his career as a lawyer and a justice, Mike has been involved as a leader and a teacher in the profession. Below is a partial listing of his activities.


Professional Recognition

  • The Best Lawyers in America 2016 - 2018: Appellate Practice; Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense: White-Collar
  • Named a Colorado "Super Lawyer," by Super Lawyers, 2016 - 2017
  • Law Week Colorado's Top Litigator, 2015
  • Colorado Chapter of the American College of Trial Lawyers Award for Judicial Excellence, 2014 
  • Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System Rebuilding Justice Award, 2014 
  • Colorado Judicial Institute Award for Distinguished Judicial Leadership, 2013 
  • University of Colorado School of Law Distinguished William Lee Knous Award, 2013 
  • University of Colorado Law School Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement, 2006 
  • Outstanding Judicial Officer of the Year, 2000 
  • Robert C. Heeney Memorial Award, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 1990 
  • Co-Recipient of the Denver Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer of the Year, 1988

Professional Leadership

  • Colorado Judicial Institute Award Committee, Chair, 2017
  • Faculty of Federal Advocates, 2014 - present
  • ABA Criminal Justice Section, White Collar Crimes Committee, 2014
  • Board of Directors, Colorado Judicial Institute, 2014 - present
  • Colorado Law Health Advisory Board, 2014
  • Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, 2014
  • Law Firm Council, Institute for the Advancement of the Legal System, 2014
  • Fellow, Colorado Bar Foundation, 2012-present
  • Chair, Chief Justice's Conference Committee on Civil Justice, 2012 - 2013
  • Founding Board Member, Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, 2006 - 2010
  • American Bar Association - Chair, ABA Criminal Justice Task Force on the Law Enforcement Access to Third Party Records, 2005 - 2010 
  • Supreme Court Liaison to the Colorado Supreme Court Standing Committee of Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, 2003 - 2010
  • University of Colorado Law School Alumni Board, 1999 - 2001
  • Governor's Task Force on Civil Justice Reform, 1999
  • American Bar Association - ABA Criminal Justice Standards Committee, 1997 - 2000
  • American Bar Association - Chair, ABA Criminal Justice Section, 1990 - 1991
  • American Bar Association - Council Member, 1984 - 1989
  • CBA Board of Governors, Colorado Bar Association, 1989 - 1991; 1980 - 1982
  • Board of Directors, Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, 1985 - 1987





Areas of Focus

Bar and Court Admissions

  • Colorado

  • Supreme Court of the United States

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado


  • Georgetown University Law Center, Institute of Criminal Law and Procedure, Fellowship, 1967
  • University of Colorado Law School, J.D., 1967
  • Dartmouth College, 1964