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Daniel Sheehan (attorney)

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Daniel Peter Sheehan
At the Romero Institute, 2012.
Born (1945-04-09) 9 April 1945 (age 79)
Alma materHarvard College
Harvard Law School
Harvard Divinity School[1]
OccupationChief counsel of the Romero Institute

Daniel Peter Sheehan (born April 9, 1945) is a constitutional and public interest lawyer, public speaker, political activist and educator.

External audio
audio icon The Midnight Soldiers. Sheehan delivers a speech on the Iran-Contra scandal at the World Affairs Conference at University of Colorado Boulder (April 1987). 116 mins.


Early life[edit]

Sheehan was born in Glen Falls, New York, and grew up in Warrensburg, New York. He attended Northeastern University before transferring to Harvard College, graduating in 1967 with a degree in American Government Studies. He then attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1970 with a Juris Doctor degree.[2]

He was briefly a member of the Army's ROTC program at Northeastern University, but resigned after questioning the sanity of the instructors. He claims he was told that he might have to kill non-combatants in Vietnam.[3]


Over his career, Sheehan has participated in numerous legal cases of public interest, including the Pentagon Papers case, the Watergate Break-In case, the Silkwood case, the Greensboro massacre case, the La Penca bombing case and others. He established the Christic Institute and the Romero Institute, two non-profit public policy centers. Since 2015 Sheehan has lectured on American history, politics and the assassination of John F. Kennedy at the University of California, Santa Cruz.[4] Sheehan is currently Chief Counsel of the Romero Institute, where his focus is the Lakota People's Law Project. Sheehan and The Lakota People's Law Project participated in legal cases related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. In 2013 Sheehan published Daniel Sheehan: The People's Advocate, a memoir, through Counterpoint Publishing.

At one time, Sheehan was legal counsel to the Jesuit US national headquarters in Washington, DC.

Avirgan v. Hull[edit]

In 1986, the Christic Institute filed a $24 million civil suit on behalf of journalists Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey stating that various individuals were part of a conspiracy responsible for the La Penca bombing that injured Avirgan.[5][6] The suit charged the defendants with illegally participating in assassinations, as well as arms and drug trafficking.[5] Among the 30 defendants named were Iran-Contra figures John K. Singlaub, Richard V. Secord, Albert Hakim, and Robert W. Owen; CIA officials Thomas Clines and Theodore Shackley; Contra leader Adolfo Calero; Medellin cartel leaders Pablo Escobar Gaviria and Jorge Ochoa Vasquez; Costa Rican rancher John Hull; and former mercenary Sam N. Hall.[5][6][7]

On June 23, 1988, United States federal judge James Lawrence King of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the case, stating: "The plaintiffs have made no showing of existence of genuine issues of material fact with respect to either the bombing at La Penca, the threats made to their news sources or threats made to themselves."[5] According to The New York Times, the case was dismissed by King at least in part due to "the fact that the vast majority of the 79 witnesses Mr. Sheehan cites as authorities were either dead, unwilling to testify, fountains of contradictory information or at best one person removed from the facts they were describing."[8] King ordered the Christic Institute to pay $955,000 in attorneys fees and $79,500 in court costs.[6] The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the ruling, and the Supreme Court of the United States let the judgment stand by refusing to hear an additional appeal.[7][9] The IRS stripped the Institute of its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status after claiming the suit was politically motivated.[10] The fine was levied in accordance with Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which can penalize lawyers for frivolous lawsuits.[11]

In the wake of the dismissal, Christic attorneys and Honey and Avirgan traded accusations over who was to blame for the failure of the case. Avirgan complained that Sheehan had handled matters poorly by chasing unsubstantiated "wild allegations" and conspiracy theories, rather than paying attention to core factual issues.[12]

UFOs and alien visitation[edit]

Sheehan has spoken publicly about UFOs and alien visitation, and has served as counsel for Harvard University psychiatrist John E. Mack[13][14][15] as well as Steven Greer's Disclosure Project.[16] He represents Luis Elizondo, the former director of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program in a case against the US Department of Defense.[16][17][18]



  • People's Advocate: The Life and Legal History of America's Most Fearless Public Interest Lawyer. Berkeley, Calif.: Counterpoint (2013). ISBN 978-1619021723.

Book contributions[edit]


Audio recordings[edit]


  1. ^ "Daniel P. Sheehan – Daniel P. Sheehan".
  2. ^ "Biography". Daniel Sheehan. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  3. ^ James Traub (February 1988). "The Law and the Prophet". Mother Jones.
  4. ^ "Hollywood comes calling for Daniel Sheehan". The Mercury News. September 19, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d "Suit Alleging Plot by Contras, CIA Dismissed : Arms-Drug Smuggling, Conspiracy Charges Unproven, Judge Says". Los Angeles Times. AP. June 24, 1988. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "Christic Institute Ordered to Pay $1 Million". Los Angeles Times. AP. February 4, 1989. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Henderson, Greg (January 13, 1992). "Court lets stand $1 million award against Christic Institute". UPI. UPI. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  8. ^ Barringer, Felicity (March 17, 1989). "THE LAW; Giving Law Teeth (and Using Them on Lawyers)". The New York Times. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  9. ^ Savage, David G. (January 14, 1992). "High Court Lets Stand $1-Million Fine". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  10. ^ Avirgan, Tony (January 1, 1988). Inside the shadow government: Declaration of plaintiffs' counsel, filed by the Christic Institute, U.S. District Court, Miami, Florida, March 31, 1988. The Institute – via Amazon.
  11. ^ Labaton, Stephen. "Courts Rethinking Rule Intended to Slow Frivolous Lawsuits." New York Times (14 September 1990).
  12. ^ Berlet, Chip. "Rightist Influences on the Christic Institute Theories." In: Right Woos Left. Political Research Associates (1990).
  13. ^ Honan, William H. (1995-05-04). "Harvard Investigates a Professor Who Wrote of Space Aliens". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-06-15.
  14. ^ Lenzer, Jeanne (2004). "John E Mack". The BMJ. 329 (7471): 920. PMC 523131.
  15. ^ "Mack's Research Is Under Scrutiny | News | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved 2023-06-15.
  16. ^ a b Bender, Bryan (May 26, 2021). "Ex-official who revealed UFO project accuses Pentagon of 'disinformation' campaign". Politico. Retrieved May 10, 2023.
  17. ^ Sharma, Shweta (May 27, 2021). "UFO whistleblower claims Pentagon threatened him after leaking military reports". The Independent.
  18. ^ "Ex-Director of Pentagon's UFO Program Alleges He Was Targeted in Smear Campaign After Going Public". Complex. May 27, 2021.

External links[edit]