Stephen and Sandra Sheller have again increased their support for Temple Law School’s Sheller Center for Social Justice with a $700,000 gift, bringing their total contribution to the Center and related programs to just over $3.7 million. The gift follows a 2018 pledge that enabled the creation of the Sheller Professorship in Public Interest Law, currently held by Professor Nancy J. Knauer and a 2013 pledge that established the Center itself, as well as contributions to related programs.
“The Shellers have been true friends to Temple Law School and wonderful partners in the pursuit of social justice for our neighbors in the community,” said Dean Gregory Mandel. “Their impact on our students’ legal education, and their vision for what lawyers can accomplish, will be felt for generations. I am deeply grateful for their continued support.”
The Sheller Center houses three clinics, through which Temple Law students work directly with community partners to address problems using non-litigation based legal strategies. The Social Justice Lawyering Clinic, led by Professor Jennifer Lee, represents individuals and organizations on critical issues affecting low-income individuals in the region, with a particular focus on low-wage workers and immigrants. The Systemic Justice Clinic, led by Professor Shanda Sibley, focuses on the collateral costs of incarceration by partnering with community organizations who support returning citizens. The Access to Justice Clinic, led by Professor Len Reiser, pursues strategies to reduce the “civil justice gap,” or the impact of proceedings like eviction, child custody, protection from abuse, and more on participants who cannot afford representation. The Center also hosts and partners with other organizations doing related work in the community.
Law student BK Katzman ’22 describes the experience they had staffing an online legal clinic for low-wage workers through the Center’s partnership with Coalition to Respect Every Worker (CREW): “Although getting to apply the skills I am learning in law school was valuable on its own, the most impactful part of this volunteer opportunity was the ability to participate in a system where everyone had value. There was no sense that the attorneys knew more than anyone else. Instead, the community valued each individual’s skills, capacities, and needs. This sentiment was particularly apparent at the end of the clinic where all those remaining in the Zoom session—workers, organizers, lawyers, and law students—shared what we were taking away from the evening. Despite the diversity of voices and roles within the meeting, everyone offered some message of gratitude and solidarity. Participating first-hand in a setting where lawyers and clients work together in the pursuit of justice was truly powerful. I am grateful to the Sheller Center for Social Justice for this kind of learning opportunity, and I hope that many other students get the chance to work with our surrounding community.”
Creating opportunities for this expanded sense of what lawyering can be has been an important part of the Shellers’ support for the Center.
“We are deeply proud of what Temple Law students and faculty have accomplished through their work at the Sheller Center,” said Sandy Sheller. “Each clinic, in its own way, offers an affirmation of the dignity and worth of our neighbors in North Philadelphia and beyond.” Stephen Sheller added, “It’s our hope that this new gift will help to build the endowment from which the Center draws its support, ensuring that it will be a source of help and hope for generations to come, and that this gift will encourage others to support the work of the Center as well.”
About the Sheller Center for Social Justice
The Sheller Center was created in 2013 through a $1.5 million gift from Stephen and Sandra Sheller. Building on Temple’s long-standing and deep commitment to social justice, the Sheller Center works in collaboration with Temple Law faculty and students, community groups, the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania legal communities, and other schools and departments within Temple University to improve access to justice for underserved populations in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. In the years since its creation, the Center has seen tremendous success, transforming the lives of individual clients and communities and impacting policy at the regional and national levels. The Center was the recipient of the 2017 Clinical Legal Education Association Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project for work done by students in its Justice Lab clinic toward ending the practice of billing parents for the cost of their children’s’ incarceration, just one of several high-impact projects undertaken by students at the Center.
About the Sheller Family Foundation
Throughout nearly five decades of service, Stephen and Sandra Sheller have been committed to improving lives and promoting positive social change; especially for those who are disenfranchised, underprivileged, and underserved. Guided by the values of justice, fairness, opportunity, empowerment, and advancement, they have sought to expose and eradicate injustice; enhance opportunities and healing for individuals, families, and communities; and strengthen children’s and families’ futures.
Sandy Sheller is an active civic leader, philanthropist, Licensed Professional Counselor, Board Certified Art Therapist, and Family Therapist. She has been influential in advancing trauma-informed therapeutic practices, working with families experiencing homelessness, addressing economic and social disparity, and in service to higher education.
Stephen Sheller is an unrelenting advocate for justice for this country. He has done well by doing good and taking cases in which he believes, from his representation of the Black Panthers and women experiencing gender-based pay inequity, to novel consumer fraud litigation, to filing the first legal challenge in Bush v. Gore. He has litigated pharmaceutical product liability claims for hundreds of young boys who developed the serious, debilitating side effect of gynecomastia while taking Risperdal. He also litigates fraud and False Claims Act violations through whistleblowers who seek his expertise. He has garnered more than $6 billion for the U.S. Government and taxpayers.