Cheryl Pilate

PARTNER

Cheryl focuses her practice on vindicating the individual rights and liberties of her clients. Widely known for exoneration of clients in actual innocence cases – cases where criminal justice has critically failed at the trial and appellate phases – Cheryl’s practice extends to tackle police brutality, the death penalty, and serious federal and state criminal allegations against her clients. Oft times her clients also face administrative or civil lawsuits related to the underlying criminal proceedings. Cheryl’s versatility as a skilled and experienced litigator in both criminal and civil matters enables her to strategically guide her clients through litigation in any realm.

Naturally inquisitive and with the advantage of an early career in journalism, Cheryl helps her clients with what she describes as “fanatical fact-finding.” Her multilayered approach to finding the truth often involves street-level investigation to identify sources of information often missed by law enforcement and to find the flaws in the government’s evidence. She often consults with experts in forensic and social sciences both to confront the government’s case and to tell the client’s story. When government wrongdoing is discovered, Cheryl’s holistic approach to righting the wrong has included seeking financial redress, successfully advocating for statutory changes in the law, and developing community networks for change. Her work is highly publicized, and she has been profiled in John Grisham’s book, The Innocent Man, and in the Netflix docuseries of the same name.

Cheryl’s perspective as a lawyer is shaped by the career experience she had before entering private practice. While working as a journalist, she received her master’s degree in social work, which honed her ability to understand and connect with people of all backgrounds. As a law clerk to the late Honorable John R. Gibson at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Cheryl learned the inner-workings of the Court and gained an understanding of how to craft persuasive arguments. She spent 15 years at Wyrsch, Hobbs & Mirakian, P.C., before forming Morgan Pilate LLC with Melanie Morgan in 2007.

University of Michigan

  • B.A., 1976

University of Kansas

  • Master of Social Work, 1986
  • J.D., 1990
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • “AV” rating, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Super Lawyers, 2005 to present
    • “Top Fifty Women Lawyers in Kansas and Missouri,” 2006
  • Legal Champion Award, Missouri Lawyers Media, 2018
  • Consumer Champion Award, Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, 2018
  • Social Justice Difference Maker Award, Kansas City Urban League, 2017
  • Dean of the Trial Bar, Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, 2017
  • Pro Bono Commitment Award, Kansas Bar Association, 2016
  • Sean O’Brien Award, Midwest Innocence Project, 2009
  • Litigator of the Year, Missourians Against the Death Penalty, 2008
  • Innocence Award, Midwest Innocence Project, 2002
  • Atticus Finch Award, Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2000

Cheryl Pilate

PARTNER

Cheryl focuses her practice on vindicating the individual rights and liberties of her clients. Widely known for exoneration of clients in actual innocence cases – cases where criminal justice has critically failed at the trial and appellate phases – Cheryl’s practice extends to tackle police brutality, the death penalty, and serious federal and state criminal allegations against her clients. Oft times her clients also face administrative or civil lawsuits related to the underlying criminal proceedings. Cheryl’s versatility as a skilled and experienced litigator in both criminal and civil matters enables her to strategically guide her clients through litigation in any realm.

Naturally inquisitive and with the advantage of an early career in journalism, Cheryl helps her clients with what she describes as “fanatical fact-finding.” Her multilayered approach to finding the truth often involves street-level investigation to identify sources of information often missed by law enforcement and to find the flaws in the government’s evidence. She often consults with experts in forensic and social sciences both to confront the government’s case and to tell the client’s story. When government wrongdoing is discovered, Cheryl’s holistic approach to righting the wrong has included seeking financial redress, successfully advocating for statutory changes in the law, and developing community networks for change. Her work is highly publicized, and she has been profiled in John Grisham’s book, The Innocent Man, and in the Netflix docuseries of the same name.

Cheryl’s perspective as a lawyer is shaped by the career experience she had before entering private practice. While working as a journalist, she received her master’s degree in social work, which honed her ability to understand and connect with people of all backgrounds. As a law clerk to the late Honorable John R. Gibson at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Cheryl learned the inner-workings of the Court and gained an understanding of how to craft persuasive arguments. She spent 15 years at Wyrsch, Hobbs & Mirakian, P.C., before forming Morgan Pilate LLC with Melanie Morgan in 2007.

University of Michigan

  • B.A., 1976

University of Kansas

  • Master of Social Work, 1986
  • J.D., 1990
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • “AV” rating, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Super Lawyers, 2005 to present
    • “Top Fifty Women Lawyers in Kansas and Missouri,” 2006
  • Legal Champion Award, Missouri Lawyers Media, 2018
  • Consumer Champion Award, Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, 2018
  • Social Justice Difference Maker Award, Kansas City Urban League, 2017
  • Dean of the Trial Bar, Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association, 2017
  • Pro Bono Commitment Award, Kansas Bar Association, 2016
  • Sean O’Brien Award, Midwest Innocence Project, 2009
  • Litigator of the Year, Missourians Against the Death Penalty, 2008
  • Innocence Award, Midwest Innocence Project, 2002
  • Atticus Finch Award, Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2000