Michael Risher

Senior Staff Attorney

Michael Risher works on a wide variety of issues, including freedom of speech, open government, criminal justice, and privacy rights.

His cases include Scott v. Bowen, a challenge to the California Secretary of States unilateral decision to disenfranchise tens of thousands of Californians living in the community after serving sentences for non-serious felony offenses, Haskell v. Harris, a challenge to a California law that requires anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony to provide the police with a DNA sample, Doe v. Harris, a challenge to an unconstitutional requirement that sex registrants provide the police with information about their online speech, and Byrd v. Fresno, a challenge to local laws that prohibit seriously ill Californians from cultivating medical marijuana as authorized by state law.

Risher also represented the U.C. Davis students who were pepper-sprayed while demonstrating, and has litigated multiple suits under the California Public Records Act. He was lead ACLU counsel in a successful challenge to a Northern California school district’s policy of mandatory drug testing for students who take part in activities such as choir and the math team. In 2008, he helped several hundred homeless residents of Fresno, California obtain a protective injunction and then a $2.35 million class-action settlement after the city repeatedly destroyed their clothing, medicine, and other personal property without warning.

Risher was a Deputy Public Defender in Alameda County from 1998 to 2005. He was a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School in 2015, served as the legal affairs advisor for the Lindesmith Center, and clerked for Judge Karen Nelson Moore on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Before attending law school, he taught English and American literature in China.

Risher graduated with honors from Harvard College and with distinction and Order of the Coif from Stanford Law School. He has third-degree black belt, in Danzan Ryu Jujutsu, a second-degree black belt in Toyama Ryu Battodo, and a first-degree black belt in Kenpo karate.