Greenpower Victory Potluck, 2016.

50 Years on the Frontlines for Justice

Through public education, grassroots organizing, litigation, and high-impact public policy, the Romero Institute creates just solutions to the climate emergency and humanitarian crises. A nonprofit law and public policy center based in Santa Cruz, CA, we expose structural injustice, support frontline communities, and take fast and effective action to safeguard the wellbeing of our human family.

We're named for Saint Óscar Romero, Salvadoran archbishop and champion of the poor who was assassinated for opposing government-sponsored death squads.

It started with Silkwood...

Our founders, Danny Sheehan and Sara Nelson, first met while seeking justice for Karen Silkwood. On November 13, 1974, Silkwood — a safety inspector with the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union — was run off the road in rural Oklahoma on her way to meet a New York Times reporter. She possessed damning evidence of safety violations at her workplace, a plutonium fuel rods plant.

Danny filed a lawsuit on behalf of Silkwood's children, and a coalition — including the National Organization for Women (where Sara served in leadership), the Jesuit Office of Social Ministries, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers Union — undertook a campaign to build support for the lawsuit. The jury in Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee awarded a record-setting $10.5 million judgement to Silkwood’s estate. The case established new precedent in liability law, and it effectively ended construction of all new nuclear power plants in the United States.

Karen Silkwood, 1977.

The Christic Institute is Born

After the Silkwood verdict, Danny and Sara moved to Washington, D.C. and founded the Christic Institute. Over the next 17 years, the Institute prosecuted and amplified some of the most celebrated public interest cases of our time, including the Iran-Contra Affair, Three Mile Island, and the American Sanctuary Movement. Together, they created a unique model for social reform in the United States.

The real patriots are not the flag-waving arms dealers who have profited from drug-smuggling, but courageous men and women of the Christic Institute, who have worked to expose the truth about U.S. foreign policy despite threats and attempts at intimidation.

– Coretta Scott King
San Francisco action team, c. 1989.

The Romero Institute Today

Today, Danny and Sara continue their legacy of winning justice and mission to safeguard future generations at the Romero Institute. Your support empowers their continued presence at the forefront of the movement to protect people and planet.

Current priorities include:

We focus in California and the Dakotas to on local and statewide solutions to confront the global climate crisis. In partnership with frontline communities, allied organizations, and you, we oppose pipelines and other toxic infrastructure, we amplify underrepresented voices, and we seek legal and policy remedies to help protect people and planet.

We've opened a Native-run foster care home on the Standing Rock Nation, and will soon oversee a teen center there as well, providing the most vulnerable children on the reservation with safe spaces to learn, stay, and play.

Landmark Cases

The Christic Institute prevailed in the pursuit of justice for:

Iran Contra Affair

Under a new application of the provisions of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Criminal Organizations Act (RICO), Christic brought charges against and exposed 29 people involved with the Iran-Contra Affair. (Avirgan v. Hull, et al)

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American Sanctuary Movement

The first vindicating argument in the American Sanctuary Movement came from Christic’s defense of Catholic workers who provided sanctuary for refugees seeking political asylum. (U.S. v. Stacey Lynn Merkt, et al.)

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Three-Mile Island Incident

When Reactor 2 at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, suffered a partial meltdown on March 28, 1979, the Christic Institute legal team was called in to help oversee the legal proceedings and represent victims of the disaster.

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Karen Silkwood

The Christic Institute won a record-setting $10.5 million judgement against the Kerr-McGee chemical company, effectively ending construction of all new nuclear power plants in the United States for 30 years. (Silkwood v. Kerr McGee)

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The Greensboro Massacre

Christic won $350,000 in damages for plaintiffs who brought suit against the City of Greensboro, North Carolina, the Greensboro police department, the KKK and American Nazi Party—a rare verdict in the southern United States. (Waller v. Butkovich)

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Partner With Us

The Romero Institute receives many appeals for help.

We look for cases where injustice is severe and systemic, where the goals for change will impact large numbers of people on local, state, national, and global levels. We're currently focused on exposing and opposing the entities responsible for global climate change and creating and supporting just solutions to the biggest humanitarian crises of our time.

We embrace projects that ignite new ways of thinking and seeing — that touch the deeper knowing in people and promote a consciousness based on cooperation and unity.

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