Judge Ellen M. Heller is a retired Judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City where she was appointed the Judge in Charge of the Civil Docket and ultimately the Circuit Administrative Judge overseeing the entire court—the first woman in Maryland to hold that position.
During that time, she instituted major reforms to relieve docket backlogs including computerized scheduling and settlement and mediation programs. As an active member of the Women Judges Task Force on Women Offenders she was directly involved with the implementation of programs for incarcerated women. In 2003, Judge Heller created the Felony Drug Initiative (FDI) which diverted non-violent substance abuse offenders to treatment and support services in lieu of incarceration. The FDI model is now used in the Drug Treatment Court in the Baltimore Circuit Court. Judge Heller continues to sit in Drug Court and works actively to address the problems of substance abuse in the criminal justice system. As a member of the Board of Behavioral Health System Baltimore she co-chairs the Criminal Justice Committee.
She has been active in the community and is the former President and Chair of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, an international relief organization operating in over 70 countries that has provided rescue, relief and renewal activities for communities in need since 1914. Also, Judge Heller has been a Trustee and former Chair of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. She is a member of the Board of Visitors of the U. of Md. School of Law, The Institute of Muslim, Christian and Jewish Studies, the Independent Lay Review Board of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the World Jewish Restitution Organization, and the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. She has served on the Boards of the Baltimore Community Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.
Her honors include the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, the Baltimore Jewish Hall of Fame, and the Maryland Law School’s Distinguished Graduate Award. She and her husband, Shale D. Stiller each received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in 2011 and Honorary Doctorates from the Johns Hopkins University in 2016. In 2017, the University of Maryland at Baltimore awarded Judge Heller an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, and in 2016 she received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Johns Hopkins University.