Building on decades of experience as a litigator, counselor, educator, and problem-solver, Mike Donofrio proudly leads Stris & Maher’s Pro Bono Practice, with a focus on restoring trust in democratic processes. He devotes the majority of his time to litigating matters related to voting rights, the electoral process, and institutional reform, including a robust Supreme Court amicus practice. He also provides strategic support to organizations and initiatives working to make democratic institutions and processes more representative and transparent.
Since joining Stris & Maher in 2017, Mike has also maintained a dynamic commercial litigation practice, spearheading complex matters in state and federal courts for clients ranging from pensioners asserting ERISA claims to closely-held, non-profit, and major public corporations. His litigation approach leverages the unique experience he gained serving in state government before joining Stris & Maher. Mike was the first general counsel of the Green Mountain Care Board, an innovative, first-of-its-kind regulatory body created by Vermont’s landmark 2011 health care reform law. He also worked as an Assistant Attorney General, representing the State of Vermont as lead counsel in complex constitutional litigation and high-stakes, multi-state arbitration under the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. Prior to his government work, Mike spent the first seven years of his career in a busy commercial litigation and white-collar defense practice in New York City, where he had the chance to participate actively in several weeks-long trials.
Mike’s work is also informed by the two years he spent teaching Legal Writing at Brooklyn Law School, where he cemented his commitment to two key principles that still form the core of his approach: (1) talking and writing clearly and simply about complicated problems and solutions; and (2) recognizing the opportunity to learn from every case, client, adversary, and experience he encounters in his practice.
Mike graduated with honors from Williams College and earned his law degree from NYU Law School. Upon returning to his home state of Vermont in 2002, he clerked for Justice Marilyn Skoglund of the Vermont Supreme Court. He currently serves as the Vice-Chair of Vermont’s Judicial Conduct Board. Outside of practicing law, Mike is an avid mountain biker, skier, music lover, and bass player.
Mr. Donofrio routinely serves as lead trial and appellate counsel in a wide range of complex and high-profile disputes. The matters below are representative of his experience.
Regulatory Process Design
By statute, the Board assumed control of Vermont’s pre-existing health insurance rate, certificate of need, and hospital budget review processes. In each instance, Mr. Donofrio led the effort to transition each function to the Board and to tailor each to the Board’s novel statutory charge. This entailed drafting rules, engaging with stakeholders, and navigating the rule-making process. The outcome was a set of clear regulations that enabled the Board to successfully take on and implement these regulatory processes.
Delivery and Payment System Reform
The Board’s unique statutory charge empowers it not only regulate, but to innovate. Mr. Donofrio advised the Board on the scope and contours of this authority and supported the payment reform team in adopting a policy governing the Board’s review or proposed reform pilot projects. He also advised the Board during its negotiations with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that resulted in the Vermont All-Payer Accountable Care Organization Model Agreement. This unique arrangement allows Vermont to move away from fee-for-service reimbursement for health care providers by aligning Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers through a statewide, Vermont-specific alternative payment model focused on health outcomes.
Mr. Donofrio served as lead counsel for Vermont in this complex arbitration concerning the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between the states and the U.S’s largest cigarette manufacturers. After discovery, the manufacturers dismissed their claim against Vermont, preserving over $25 million of Vermont’s 2003 MSA payment.
Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee v. Shumlin
Mr. Donofrio defended Vermont in its dispute with Entergy over continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, a case that addressed the preemptive scope of the Atomic Energy Act.
Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc.
Mr. Donofrio represented Vermont in this First Amendment challenge to a state law restricting datamining used for pharmaceutical marketing. (Petitioner’s Brief)
In re National Security Agency Telecommunications Record Litigation
Mr. Donofrio represented Vermont in this multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of California concerning states’ efforts to investigate alleged disclosures of confidential customer data by telecoms to intelligence agencies, the preemptive scope of federal law in matters of national security, and the application of state secrets doctrine.