The Temple University Beasley School of Law will use a $1.5 million donation to launch a center for social justice.The gift is from plaintiffs attorney Stephen Sheller and his wife, Sandra Sheller, an art and family therapist.

The Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice is slated to open in the spring. It will work with city agencies and nonprofit organizations that focus on social justice throughout the Philadelphia region in areas including civil liberties, consumer protection, the environment and disability rights.

"The law school is always seeking creative solutions to address the ways in which we fall short of the promise of justice for all," law dean JoAnne Epps said in a formal statement on February 13. "The Stephen and Sandra Sheller Center for Social Justice will help us realize this goal."

The center will function as a think tank where students, alumni and practitioners can engage in research, policy development and advocacy. It might also engage in litigation, according to Epps.

"I have seen that a lot of struggling people have really lost their voice," said Sandra Sheller, who has worked with homeless families. "We talk a lot about the freedoms that Americans have, and a lot of times, if you’re combating poverty and oppression, you can’t really partake of those freedoms."

The Shellers in 2006 founded the Sheller Family Foundation, which supports programs that help the underprivileged and attack corruption.

Stephen Shellers is not a Temple law alumnus—he got his J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania Law School—but said, "Temple is the perfect place for this. If we can affect the way justice happens, we can impact, on a large scale, a lot of lives for the better."

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.