Sara Nelson is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Romero Institute and former National Executive Director and co-founder of the Christic Institute. Daniel Sheehan is President and co-founder of the Romero Institute and former President and co-founder of the Christic Institute.
A former TV reporter and news anchor, Sara Nelson was educated at Cornell University and U.C. Berkeley. Danny Sheehan earned degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Danny has helped lead multiple lawsuits of historic importance, including three Supreme Court cases. Prior to forming the Christic Institute, he litigated a number of high-profile social justice cases, including:
- Defending First Amendment rights in the “Pentagon Papers Case” (New York Times Co. v. United States)
- Defending reproductive freedom (Eisenstadt v. Baird)
- Defending First Amendment rights of press protection (In re Pappas: Branzburg v. Hayes)
In 1977, Danny was contacted by Sara Nelson, who was then the National Organization of Women’s (NOW) National Labor Secretary, and partnered with her and a coalition of activists to find out who killed Karen Silkwood, a young union leader working at a plutonium factory in Oklahoma who was run off the road while delivering proof of irregularities and safety violations to a New York Times reporter. The ensuing investigation and jury trial, on behalf of Silkwood’s children, won a record-setting $10.5 million judgment.
Encouraged by their victory in the Silkwood case, Sara and Danny, along with Father William Davis, formed the Christic Institute to combine their efforts as champions of social justice. At its height, it became a national organization with 50 staff members in five offices supporting hundreds of action teams. From 1980 to 1992, the Christic Institute litigated several landmark cases, including:
- Representing victims of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster (PIRC v. Three Mile Island)
- Defending Catholic workers who provided sanctuary to Salvadoran refugees in the American Sanctuary Movement (U.S. v. Stacey Lynn Merkt, et al.)
- Seeking damages from the KKK and American Nazi Party members for the murder of civil rights demonstrators in the Greensboro Massacre (Waller v. Butkovich)
- Bringing charges against 29 people involved in the civil case associated with the Iran-Contra Affair (Avirgan v. Hull, et al)
Danny and Sara formed the Romero Institute in 1992. A law and policy center based here in Santa Cruz, the Institute exposes and implements solutions to serious threats to the environment, structural injustice, and human and constitutional rights violations.