Daniel Sheehan (attorney)

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Daniel P. Sheehan
Daniel Sheehan.png
At the Romero Institute, 2012.
Alma materHarvard College
Harvard Law School
Harvard Divinity School[1]
OccupationChief Counsel of the Romero Institute

Daniel P. 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 Colorado University (April 1987). 116 mins.

Daniel P. Sheehan (born April 9, 1945) is a constitutional and public interest lawyer, political activist, public speaker, and educator. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, Harvard College, and Harvard Divinity School.[2]

Over the course of his career, Daniel Sheehan has participated in numerous legal cases of public interest, including cases related to the Pentagon Papers, the Attica Prison riot, the Wounded Knee Occupation, the death of Karen Silkwood, the Greensboro massacre, The Three Mile Island accident, the American Sanctuary Movement, and the La Penca bombing.[3] Sheehan has also represented controversial groups such as the Black Panther Party of Boston and the Church of Scientology.[4][5] Sheehan has worked with attorneys of note such as F. Lee Bailey, Gerry Spence, and William Kunstler.[6][7] He served as an attorney for regional and national offices of the American Civil Liberties Union. Sheehan and his wife, activist Sara Nelson, established the Christic Institute (1980-1992) and reconstituted the Romero Institute (formerly the Oscar Romero Foundation), two inter-faith non-profit law and public policy centers.[8]

From an early age Sheehan has believed in the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations.[9] He has lectured widely about UFOs/alien visitation, conducted a study of UFOs for the Congressional Research Service, defended an academic whose research on UFO had been criticized by colleagues, participated in Disclosure Project events, discussed the topic several times on the Coast to Coast AM radio program, and established an institute intended to foster a new theological worldview necessary for a “post-contact reality.”[10][11][12][13][14]

Sheehan and the Christic Institute achieved their greatest public prominence in 1986 when Sheehan used the federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act to sue 30 individuals on behalf of Tony Avirgan, an American journalist injured in a 1984 bombing intended to kill Contra military leader Eden Pastora in La Penca, Nicaragua. Sheehan alleged that the bombing was the work of an anti-communist, self-enriching “Secret Team” within the US government which had been responsible for money laundering, political assassinations, illegal arms transfers, and drug-running across the globe since the 1970s.[15] Some of the individuals identified in Sheehan’s complaint were figures in the Iran-Contra affair, which was coming to light at the time. Sheehan’s publicity and fundraising efforts for the case and subsequent appeals included an appearance on C-SPAN, two books based on the suit, a graphic novel by Alan Moore, Bill Sienkiewicz and Paul Mavrides, and benefit concerts featuring Bobcat Goldthwaite, Michelle Shocked, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson and Bruce Springsteen.[16][17][18][19] Sheehan, Christic and its lawsuit were praised by Congressman Don Edwards, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Daniel Ellsberg and other liberal Americans.[20] In 1988 Judge James L. King of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, claiming the suit was based on “unsubstantiated rumor and speculation from unidentified sources with no first-hand knowledge.”[21] Two subsequent appeals were denied.[22] The Christic Institute sold its assets to pay more than $1 million in attorney’s fees and court costs ordered by the court, lost its charitable status, and was dissolved.[23][24] Sheehan and Nelson subsequently moved from Washington DC to California.[25]

After the dismissal Avirgan criticized Sheehan for including “numerous undocumented allegations” in the suit and for inflating the case from beyond the issue of the bombing to an indictment of a “broad, 30-year conspiracy.”[26][27] Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates criticized Sheehan and Christic for incorporating right-wing conspiracy theories into their case.[28] Berlet grouped Sheehan with the researchers John Judge, Mark Lane, Dave Emory, Barbara Honneger, and Mae Brussell who have “created a progressive constituency that confuses demagoguery with leadership, and undocumented conspiracism with serious research.”.[29] Nelson, however, complained that the “hard left” had unfairly criticized Christic for its use of military men as witnesses in its case.[30] Decades later, the La Penca bomber was identified by Avirgan, Avirgan's wife and journalism partner Martha Honey, and others as an Argentinian “double agent” who was working for an official of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Honey complained that, “…we had wasted millions of dollars and a decade with Sheehan.”[31][32]

Subsequent Sheehan activities include: lecture series on American history and contemporary politics at several California universities (1994-2019); another unsuccessful lawsuit which claimed a purported murder was related to secret government activities (the Col. Joseph Sabow Case); participation in legal cases related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests; legal representation of a UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) “whistleblower” who claims to have been defamed by the Defense Department, and advocacy for California “clean car” legislation.[33][34][35][36][37] Sheehan is currently Chief Counsel of the Romero Institute, where his focus is the Lakota People's Law Project and the Let’s Green CA! initiative.[38] He currently lives in Santa Cruz, California.[39]



  • 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. ^ Daniel P. Sheehan: Federal Civil Rights Attorney, Biography (danielpsheehan.com). Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  3. ^ Daniel P. Sheehan webpage, Op. cit.
  4. ^ Sheehan, Daniel P. The People’s Advocate: The Life and Legal History of America’s Most Fearless Public Interest Lawyer. Berkeley, California. Counterpoint Publishing. 2013. p.94-6.
  5. ^ Robinson, Timothy S., “Scientology Minister Jailed For His Silence.” The Washington Post, July 30, 1977 (washingtonpost.com). Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  6. ^ Sheehan 2013, Op. cit. p.180-196, 348-384.
  7. ^ Huck, Dr. Susan, Legal Terrorism: The truth about the Christic Institute. New World Publishing. 1989. p.126-33.
  8. ^ Sheehan 2013, Op cit. p.563.
  9. ^ ibid. p.12, 25-6.
  10. ^ Daniel Sheehan: UFOs and the Cosmic Perspective – Dec 15, 2014. Online video. Recorded December 15, 2014 (romeroinstitute.org). Retrieved 25 June 2022.
  11. ^ “UFO Truth with Daniel Sheehan.” (Online video). Recorded at the National Press Club, Washington DC, May 9, 2001. Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  12. ^ Showalter, Elaine, Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media. New York: Columbia University Press. 1997. p.199.
  13. ^ Coast To Coast AM with George Noory (coasttocoastam.com). Retrieved February 11, 2023.
  14. ^ New Paradigm Institute (newparadigminstitute.org). “Eighth Paradigm Overview: The Need For A New “Eighth Paradigm” Theological Worldview.” Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  15. ^ Affidavit of Daniel P. Sheehan. Filed on December 12, 1986. Minor Revisions January 31, 1987. p.28-43. (archive.org) Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  16. ^ “Christic Institute Iran-Contra Lawsuit.” C-SPAN, November 25, 1987. (c-span.org). Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  17. ^ Daniel Sheehan and Daniel Ortega, Assault on Nicaragua: The Untold Story of the ‘secret war. Walnut Publishing, 1987. Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey, La Penca: On Trial in Costa Rica; The CIA vs. the Press. San Pedro, Editorial Porvenir, 1988.
  18. ^ Moore, Alan, et al. Brought To Light: A Graphic Docudrama. Forestville, California. Eclipse Books. 1989. (archive.org)
  19. ^ Convergence, Summer 1989, p.15. Convergence, Winter 1991, p. 7 (archive.org). Retrieved July 7, 2022.
  20. ^ Moore Op. cit. n.p.
  21. ^ “Christic Institute Ordered to Pay $1 Million.” Los Angeles Times. AP. February 4, 1989 (latimes.com). Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  22. ^ Henderson, Greg. “Court lets stand $1 million award against Christic Institute.” January 13, 1992. UPI Archives (upi.com). Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  23. ^ Ibid.
  24. ^ Sheehan 2013, Op cit. p.566.
  25. ^ Sheehan 2013 Op cit. p.567.
  26. ^ Berlet, Chip, “Friendly Fascists: The Far Right Moves In On The Left,” The Progressive, Vol 56, No. 6, June 1992. p.19 (archive.org) Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  27. ^ Berlet, Chip, Right Woos Left: Populist Party, LaRouchian, and Other Neo-Fascist Overtures To Progressives, And Why They Must Be Rejected. Political Research Associates. Cambridge, MA, 1992. p.19.
  28. ^ Ibid., p.17-22.
  29. ^ Ibid., p.5.
  30. ^ Sheehan 2013 Op. cit. p.565.
  31. ^ Pomareda, Fabiola, “30 years later, victims deserve justice, says La Penca survivor.” “La Penca: 30 years later” (ticotimes.net). Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  32. ^ Shou, Nick, “Who Killed Col, James Sabow?” OC Weekly, February 17, 2000 (ocweekly.com). Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  33. ^ Daniel P. Sheehan webpage, Op. cit.
  34. ^ Shou, Op cit.
  35. ^ “August 22, 2018 – North Dakota Drops Felony Charges Against Chase Iron Eyes.” Last Real Indians. August 22, 2018 (lastrealindians.com). Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  36. ^ Bender, Bryan, “Ex-official who revealed UFO project accuses Pentagon of ‘disinformation’ campaign.” Politico. May 26, 2021 (politico.com). Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  37. ^ Let’s Green CA!, SB 1230: Clean Car Equity for CA. (action.greencal.org). Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  38. ^ Lakota People’s Law Project. “Leadership,” (lakotalaw.org). Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  39. ^ Daniel P. Sheehan webpage, Op. cit. Retrieved July 15, 2022.

External links[edit]