Donnie is an experienced appellate advocate, litigator, and advisor to public-sector and business clients. Leveraging his experience as a former general counsel and in-house litigation chief, he brings a practical, solutions-oriented approach to clients’ most pressing challenges.
In the courtroom, he has experience at all levels of the federal and Indiana judicial systems—including work on appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Indiana Supreme Court. He has served as lead counsel for parties or amici in over two dozen appeals and served as the principal briefing author in several more. He has also maintained an active trial-court practice focused on issues presenting important legal or policy implications for both public and private-sector clients.
As an advisor, Donnie has a deep understanding of the distinct challenges facing public-sector and business clients. Before joining Taft, he served in Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration as corporation counsel and chief litigation counsel for the City of Indianapolis and Marion County. In those roles, he gained significant experience advising elected officials, fellow cabinet-level appointees, agencies, boards, and commissions on issues ranging from economic development and TIF policy to pandemic response and police reform. Before his time in public service, he was an appellate advocate and business litigator representing global and local companies at an AmLaw 100 firm.
His primary areas of substantive focus include:
- Federal constitutional issues, including those arising under the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments and the standing, ripeness, and mootness doctrines arising under Article III.
- Questions arising under the Indiana constitution.
- Questions of statutory interpretation arising under federal and state law.
- Issues facing legislative bodies and public boards.
- Federal and state-law governmental immunities.
- Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) and Open-Door Law.
- Disaster emergency laws and pandemic response.
- Police reform.
- Contract and quasi-contract claims.
- Preliminary and permanent injunctive relief.
- Drafting legislation and executive orders.
- Advising public-sector clients on economic-development projects and redevelopment law.
Donnie is a graduate of Indiana University with highest distinction and an Order of the Coif graduate of Berkeley Law School. As a law student, he served as a judicial extern for Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and later for Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. As an undergraduate, he served as an in-chambers intern for Judge Gregory A. Smith on the Daviess Circuit Court.
Distinguished Fellow, Indianapolis Bar Foundation
Graduate, Indianapolis Bar Association Bar Leader Series XIII, 2015
All Service Areas
- University of California Berkeley School of Law (2012)
Order of the Coif
- Indiana University (2009)
B.A., Highest Distinction, Political Science and History
- State - Indiana
- Federal - U.S. Supreme Court
- Federal - U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit
- Federal - Northern District of Indiana
- Federal - Southern District of Indiana
Notable Appellate Matters and Original Actions:
- GEFT Outdoors, LLC, et al. v. City of Westfield, et al. (7th Cir. 2021). Representing coalition of amici municipalities in appeal addressing First Amendment circuit split having far-reaching implications for municipal sign and billboard regulations.
- Horner, et al. v. Curry, et al. (Ind. 2019). Won affirmance of summary judgment in lawsuit construing Article 8, Section 2 of Indiana’s constitution.
- Doe v. Holcomb, et al. (U.S. 2018). Defeated certiorari petition appearing on multiple national watchlists.
- Heath v. Indianapolis Fire Department (7th Cir. 2018). Won affirmance of summary judgment in False Claims Act retaliation lawsuit.
- Robinett v. City of Indianapolis (7th Cir. 2018). Won affirmance of post-judgment order construing Indiana’s public-employee indemnification statute.
- Doe v. Holcomb, et al. (7th Cir. 2018). Won affirmance of dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) for want of Article III standing.
- Cox v. City of Evansville, et al. (Ind. 2018). Represented amici successfully urging Supreme Court to reject extension of common-carrier liability to municipal services.
- City of Indianapolis v. West (Ind. Ct. App. 2017). Won reversal of summary-judgment denial in interlocutory appeal addressing respondeat superior liability.
- FLM, LLC v. Metropolitan Development Comm’n (Ind. Ct. App. 2017). Won affirmance of summary-judgment order construing zoning ordinances.
- City of Indianapolis v. Kaler (Ind. Ct. App. 2017). Won reversal of summary-judgment denial in interlocutory appeal applying premises-liability and contributory-negligence tests to athletic activities in public park.
- State ex rel. Staten v. Marion Superior Court, et al. (Ind. 2016). Defeated mandamus petition in original action seeking to compel trial-court order.
- United States v. Lewis (7th Cir 2016). As court-appointed amicus, advanced arguments resulting in government’s confession of error and published opinion addressing permissible sentencing factors.
- Packer v. Trustees of Indiana University (7th Cir. 2015). Won affirmance of summary judgment in decision clarifying Seventh Circuit’s waiver standard.
- Bloomington Police Department v. Stone Belt, Inc. (Ind. Ct. App. 2015). Represented amici in case interpreting Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA).
- Mellouli v. Lynch (U.S. 2015). Worked on pro bono team at certiorari and merits stages of successful deportation appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- McMorris v. American Senior Communities (7th Cir. 2014). Won affirmance of summary judgment in Title VII case.
- American Cold Storage v. City of Boonville (Ind. 2014). Won reversal of decision interpreting Indiana’s annexation remonstrance statute.
Notable Trial-Court Matters:
- Nicole K., et al. v. Marion County, et al. (S.D. Ind. 2019). Briefed motion to dismiss for want of Article III standing that led to voluntary dismissal for county client.
- City of Indianapolis v. City of Carmel (Marion Superior 2017). Obtained preliminary injunction in case of first impression construing Indiana’s county-line-road statute.
- GEFT Outdoors, LLC v. Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County, et al. (S.D. Ind. 2017). Negotiated agreed judgment resolving First Amendment sign-code dispute.
- Consolidated City of Indianapolis and Marion County v. United States of America, et al. (S.D. Ind. 2016). Negotiated agreed judgment reinstating county into National Flood Insurance Program.
Speeches and Publications
Speeches and Presentations
- Speaker, "Federal Case Law Update," Indiana Municipal Lawyers Association, June 2021.
- Speaker, “State of Indiana and City of Indianapolis Response to COVID-19,” Indianapolis Bar Association, March 2020.
- Speaker, “U.S. Supreme Court Review: October Term 2018,” Indiana Municipal Lawyers Association, June 2019.
- Speaker, “Surviving in a Government Practice,” Indianapolis Bar Association, October 2019.
- Speaker, “Office of Corporation Counsel,” City of Indianapolis Leadership Education and Accelerated Development Program, July 2019 and July 2018.
- Speaker, “Surviving in a Government or In-House Practice,” Indianapolis Bar Association, October 2018, October 2017, and April 2017.
- Speaker, “Who’s Who in the Office of Corporation Counsel,” Indianapolis Bar Association, May 2016.
- Author, “Discussing Criminal-Justice Reform with a United States Attorney Turned Mayor,” The Circuit Rider Vol 29, September 2021.
- Co-author, Seventh Circuit Civil Appeals Practice Note: Initiating an Appeal, Practical Law Litigation, December 2015.
- Co-author, Initial Civil Appeals State Q&A: Indiana, Practical Law Litigation, October 2015.
- Co-author, Additional Civil Appeals State Q&A: Indiana, Practical Law Litigation, October 2015.
- Co-author, Appellate Civil Case Law Update, Res Gestae, August 2015.
- Co-author, Appellate Civil Case Law Update, Res Gestae, February 2015.
- Co-author, Seventh Circuit Civil Appeals Practice Note: Initiating an Appeal, Practical Law Litigation, December 2014.
- Co-author, Initial Civil Appeals State Q&A: Indiana, Practical Law Litigation, October 2014.
- Co-author, Additional Civil Appeals State Q&A: Indiana, Practical Law Litigation, October 2014.
- Co-author, Appellate Civil Case Law Update, Res Gestae, September 2010.
In the course of his public-sector work, Donnie has also regularly presented to legislative bodies, boards, and commissions on issues ranging from economic development and police reform to federal regulatory compliance and government procurement.
- Indianapolis Bar Association
Board of Directors
Appellate Practice Section
Bar Leader Series XIII (2015)
- Indiana Municipal Lawyers Association
Board of Directors (2019-2020)
Litigation Committee (2016-2020)
- Seventh Circuit Bar Association
Board of Governors
- Indiana State Bar Association
Appellate Practice Section
- Indianapolis Bar Foundation
Board of Directors (2019-2020)
Chair, Fellows Committee (2020)
Impact Fund Committee (2013-2019)
- Committee on Pattern Civil Jury Instructions of the Seventh Circuit, Section 1983 Subcommittee
- Indianapolis City-County Ethics Commission
- IPS School 39
Classroom Volunteer (2012-2016)