Joseph Richotte, Butzel Long Photo

For nearly two decades, Mr. Richotte has focused his practice on complex civil and criminal appeals, defending corporations and professionals against criminal prosecutions, and defending the freedoms and interests of the press and journalists.


Honored by Michigan Super Lawyers and DBusiness as a top appellate lawyer in Detroit, Mr. Richotte focuses on complex civil appeals, criminal appeals, and appeals involving the press.

Mr. Richotte has also been repeatedly recognized on the list of Rising Stars within the white-collar defense bar by Michigan Super Lawyers. He counsels corporations, executives, and other professionals who are under investigation or prosecuted for serious frauds, business crimes, and regulatory offenses.

Mr. Richotte defends print and digital media companies and journalists, too.  He represents them in libel and privacy lawsuits, conducts prepublication content review, and advises on subpoenas, FOIA requests, open government, and First Amendment issues.  He serves as Deputy General Counsel to the Michigan Press Association.

Notable Appellate Matters:

  • Christie v. Wayne State Univ., No. 162706; —Mich.— (May 2, 2023), successfully argued that any person who sues the state must provide timely notice under the Court of Claims Act, even in cases that may be filed in state circuit courts instead of the Court of Claims.
  • The Detroit News v. Independent Citizens Redistricting Comm’n, 508 Mich. 399 (2021), through an original action in the Michigan Supreme Court, successfully challenged the inaugural commission’s closed meeting and secured the release of memoranda withheld from the public.
  • In re OSHA Covid Rule, No. 21-7000 (CA6 2021), coauthored amicus brief for the Small Business Association of Michigan in opposing OSHA’s emergency temporary standard for mandatory vaccination.
  • Bisio v. City of Clarkston, 506 Mich. 37 (2020), authored amicus brief for members of the press on the application of FOIA to local municipal officers.
  • Henry v. Dow Chemical Co., No. 156128 (Mich. 2018), authored amicus brief for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel on the statute of limitations and Michigan’s claim-accrual statute in an environmental case involving the contamination of the Tittabawassee River.
  • People v. Brown, 500 Mich. 1018 (2017), on special appointment by the Michigan Supreme Court, secured a new appeal of right for a prisoner on a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.
  • Bitterman v. Bolf, No. 151520 (Mich. 2016), authored amicus brief for members of the press favoring broad application of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act to delegates performing statutory functions for public bodies.
  • Polytorx, LLC v. University of Mich., Nos. 318151, 320989 (Mich. App. 2015), secured an interlocutory reversal in a trade-secrets case that resulted in a pre-discovery judgment in favor of the University.
  • Kurns v. Railroad Friction Prods. Corp., No. 10-879 (U.S. 2012), authored amicus brief favoring federal preemption of all state common-law claims for injuries caused by locomotive equipment.

Notable Criminal Matters:

  • Secured a full acquittal of a board-certified pain management physician charged with 39 counts of drug trafficking, healthcare fraud, and maintaining a drug-involved premises.
  • Represented former Ford employee charged with stealing $50 million in trade secrets.
  • Secured probation for a physician accused of a $9 million healthcare fraud.
  • Investigated allegations of sexual abuse by a physician for a healthcare institution that provided medical care to juveniles held in custody.
  • Investigated allegations of clerical misconduct and defended a religious order against claims of vicarious liability.
  • Settled a government enforcement action against a nonprofit without a fine when the government intended to shut down the nonprofit for alleged fraud.
  • Settled an SEC administrative action against a company and its principal over alleged registration, custody rule, and recordkeeping violations.
  • Quashed a search warrant directed toward a financial institution.
  • Secured the dismissal of a felony embezzlement charge at the preliminary exam for lack of probable cause.
  • Resolved a civil forfeiture action tied to the Black Market Peso Exchange.
  • Defended multiple businesses accused of government contracting fraud by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Defended multiple businesses accused of violating state and federal environmental laws and regulations.
  • Defended numerous L-1 nonimmigrant work visa holders accused of criminal offenses, successfully resolving several actions in ways that avoided negative impact to visas.

Notable First Amendment Matters:

  • U.S. v. Fox, No. 20-183 (WD Mich. 2021), secured the partial release of pretrial detention exhibits for BuzzFeed and The New York Times in a case against one of the men accused of conspiring to kidnap the governor of Michigan.
  • Kolodin v. William Beaumont Hosp., No. 343445 (Mich. App. 2019), successfully defended a dismissal of a defamation action premised upon a mandatory report under the Child Protection Law.
  • Levitt v. Digital First Media, No. 330946 (Mich. App. 2017), secured interlocutory reversal and dismissal of case after a trial ruling that allowed a lawyer to proceed with a defamation claim against a newspaper.
  • Montcalm County v. Greenville Daily News, No. 16-K21647-CZ (Mich. Cir. Ct. 2016), secured dismissal of lawsuit filed by a country against a newspaper over its FOIA request.
  • People v. Leist, No. 14-49-FY (Mich. Dist. Ct. 2014), secured dismissal of criminal charges against a photographer over photographs of an airplane crash site.



Wayne State University 2004, B.S. Criminal Justice Honors

Wayne State University Law School 2007, J.D.



  • State Bar of Michigan
    Chair Elect, Appellate Practice Section Council
  • FBA Eastern District of Michigan, Appellate Section, Criminal Section
  • ABA Communications Law Forum
  • Media Law Resource Center

Awards & Recognitions

Awards & Recognitions

The Best Lawyers in America - Appellate Practice, 2024

Michigan Super Lawyers, Rising Star - White Collar Criminal Defense, 2013-2022

Michigan Super Lawyers, Appellate, 2023

DBusiness Top Lawyers in Metro Detroit, Appellate Law, 2013, 2018-2023; White Collar Criminal Defense, 2016-2018, 2021-2023; Antitrust Law, 2021

Michigan Defense Trial Counsel: 2013 Golden Gavel Recipient for Professionalism and Pro Bono Service


  • Represented a defense contractor accused of fraudulently supplying non-conforming materials to the Department of Defense.
  • Represented a lawyer seeking reinstatement of his license to practice law.
  • Represented a company in connection with a bribery investigation.
  • Represented a former Chief Financial Officer and Controller of several corporations accused in state court of embezzling almost $200,000.
  • Successfully defended and defeated class certification motions in a multi-million dollar Florida concrete antitrust action
  • Represented a lawyer accused by ethics authorities of having a conflict of interest with a client.
  • Represented executive of an environmental company charged with criminal violations of the Clean Water Act and related environmental statutes
  • Represented a former employee accused of stealing more than $100 million worth of trade secrets from his employers in violation of the federal economic espionage act.
  • Represented lawyers accused by ethics authorities of conduct unbecoming a lawyer, including criminal conduct.
  • Represented a physician accused of illegally prescribing pain medication to individuals without a medical need.
  • Represented a major automotive supplier under investigation for allegedly participating in a several hundred million dollar international antitrust price-fixing conspiracy.
  • Represented a sales executive accused of helping a Fortune 500 company's employee steal tens of thousands of dollars from the customer-company.
  • Represented multiple Japanese Auto Supplier companies in criminal antitrust investigations conducted by the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (Washington, DC)
  • Represented a former high-ranking government official in a public-corruption investigation.
  • Obtained a declination of prosecution for an accounting officer of an international automotive supplier after investigation by the DOJ and the SEC
  • Represented a major international cement and concrete corporation accused by private litigants of participating in a several hundred million dollar antitrust price-fixing conspiracy.

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