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Speakers and Honorees
Ellen M. Heller, JD
Circuit Administrative Judge for the 8th Circuit
Honorary Doctor of Laws
Born in Baltimore, Md., Judge Ellen M. Heller received a BS from Johns Hopkins University in 1972, and her JD from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1977, with honors from both institutions.
Upon graduation, she took a position from 1977 until 1986 as an assistant attorney general and deputy of the Educational Affairs Division and principal counsel for the Maryland State Department of Education. In 1986, Heller became an associate judge in the Baltimore City Circuit Court, 8th District. During her time as a jurist, she also worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law from 1984 to 1993. Heller was the administrator of the civil docket from 1993 to 1999 and, at the time, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell credited her with revolutionizing the civil litigation process in Baltimore.
In 1999, Heller was promoted to circuit administrative judge for the 8th Circuit, making her the first female administrative Circuit Court judge in Maryland. She continued to revolutionize the court system, aiding in the introduction of alternative dispute resolution in Circuit Court cases, providing improvements in statistical reporting, assembling a task force to oversee and implement changes to the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse and the Courthouse East, and the introduction of e-filing. Heller has been a member of the Court of Appeals Rules Committee, and is a member of the American Law Institute.
Heller has received numerous awards and honors, including the University of Maryland School of Law Distinguished Graduate Award, induction into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Baltimore Jewish Hall of Fame in 2009, the Bar Association of Baltimore City's Margaret Brent-Juanita Jackson Mitchell Award, and the Maryland State Bar Association’s Civility Award. With her husband, Shale Stiller, LLB, MLA, she received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service, and in 2016 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Johns Hopkins University. Since retiring in 2003, Heller has remained active as a senior judge presiding over a felony drug diversion court she established in 2003.
She also remains active in the Baltimore community, having served as a board member to various organizations, including the University of Maryland Carey School of Law Board of Visitors, the Baltimore Community Foundation Board, the International Advisory Board of the Johns Hopkins Bioethics Institute, the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, and a trustee and chair of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
Maryland Carey Law has been fortunate over the years to be the beneficiary of Heller’s generosity. She has established several endowments that support initiatives and activities of the school’s Law and Health Care Program, and a scholarship providing financial assistance to an outstanding student. In her honor, a donor has established a fellowship for a law student in the summer at a nonprofit organization.
Heller's altruism extends beyond her financial support. She is an active member of the Maryland Carey Law community participating in activities that benefit its many constituencies. In recent years, she has participated in various academic conferences and symposia, hosted private dinners for the former and current dean, as well as presenting on career development panels sharing her knowledge, expertise, and counsel with faculty, students, and practitioners.
Heller has not only stayed active in the Baltimore community, but internationally as well. Her positions as former president and chair of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the largest Jewish humanitarian organization in the world, have allowed her to travel the world providing relief and support, including Indonesia in 2004 following the tsunami and Zimbabwe in 2007 during its economic crisis. The JDC is 103 years old and operates in more than 70 countries.