Ellen Moses Heller

Judge Ellen Moses Heller has served in her community for over thirty years as a law professional and humanitarian. Through much self-motivation, she graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law with honors to become a natural leader in her community. As a significant professional and civic leader, Judge Heller focuses on designing original social programs to help citizens and their families achieve success. Judge Heller's altruism reaches beyond her Maryland community; in fact, it spans the world with her active role in the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a nonpolitical international rescue and relief organization.

Early in her life, Judge Heller left college to enjoy her family; however, she returned in her thirties to earn a Bachelor's Degree from The Johns Hopkins University. Her enthusiasm for community activism led her to law school, where she felt she could better effect changes for those in need. She earned her J.D. with honors from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1977. At the time, Judge Heller found this endeavor extremely challenging, not only as an older student with children, but also as one the very few female students. With minimal female role models, Judge Heller prevailed in her ambitions and pursued a career in law at a time when men dominated the profession.

After graduation, Judge Heller became an Assistant Attorney General and was Deputy Chief of the Educational Affairs Division. In the Attorney General's Office, she excelled at analytical and problem solving skills with higher education cases. During this time, Judge Heller became a widow and single mother. This particular challenge did not set her back; rather, it inspired her career choices as well as her civic activism. In 1986, Governor William Donald Schaefer recognized her professional skills and appointed her to the bench of the Baltimore City Circuit Court. She took over the court's civil docket in 1991 and implemented many innovative administrative programs that ultimately helped resolve the court's 4500 case backlog. This led to her 1999 appointment as the first female Circuit Administrative Judge overseeing the entire court where she remained until her retirement in 2003. Though she was often junior to many of her colleagues, the court recognized her determination to transform the court's role in public service. For example, she helped implement mandatory pretrial mediation services for civil and malpractice cases, as well as won federal grants to coordinate social programs for convicted non-violent drug offenders.

During Judge Heller's career, she continued to support her alma mater, the University of Maryland School of Law, working as an adjunct professor from 1984-1993. She has also helped establish the Dr. Richard H. Heller Fund, for lectures and fellowships, and a scholarship endowment fund with her husband, Shale D. Stiller, for promising law students that show financial need. Continuing to support the higher education community, she sits on the Board of Visitors at the University of Maryland and the International Board of the Johns Hopkins Berman Bioethics Institute as well as the Johns Hopkins University Urban Health Institute.

As one of the top female professionals practicing law in Maryland, Judge Heller persists as a role model by participating in and designing new programs for the less fortunate. She has particularly devoted her attention toward incarcerated women in Maryland, especially those with children. She is a long-standing member of the Maryland Women Judges Task Force on Women in Prison and proactively establishes beneficial programs for female inmates. Such as the Girl Scouts in prison troop at the Jessup facility where inmate mothers participate weekly in normal Girl Scout activities with their daughters, which also led to a post release troop of mothers and daughters as well.

Furthermore, Judge Heller became a board member and president (2004) of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a nonpolitical overseas humanitarian organization that offers worldwide relief to specific areas ravaged by disaster or distress. Judge Heller passionately directs JDC operations in more than sixty-six countries, where she implements a range of programs that help various persons such as holocaust survivors, Tsunami areas, breast cancer projects in Eastern Europe, Judge Heller is also the recipient of many awards and honors. She is one of Maryland's Top 100 women by The Daily Record, as well as the recipient of the 2001 Circle of Excellence Award. She has received many honors including the University of Maryland School of Law Distinguished Graduate Award (2003), the Daily Records' Leadership in Law Award, Hadassah's Woman of Distinction Ward, the Maryland State Bar Association's Civility Ward, the Baltimore City Bar Association's Margaret Brent-Juanita Jackson Mitchell Award, the Girls Scouts of Central Maryland's Distinguished Women's Award, and the American Jewish Committee Hilda Katz Blaustein Award.

Judge Heller is a member of the American Law Institute, American Bar Association, the National Association of Women Judges and the Girls Scouts of Central Maryland. She has been a member of the Court of Appeals of Maryland's Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, the Maryland State Bar Association, the Committee on Continuing Legal Education, and the Committee on Civility of the Bar Association of Baltimore City.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2008.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2008