News Release

Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar Remembers Past President Jim Shellow

Washington, DC (Nov. 3, 2022) – Milwaukee, Wis., attorney and Past President (1975-76) of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) James Myers Shellow ("Jim"), passed away on October 29, 2022, just before his 96th birthday.

Jim helped found the National College for Criminal Defense – whose purpose is to improve the quality of American trial advocacy, especially with regard to the performance of court-appointed counsel – and joined as a Fellow in 1975. In 1986, he joined the University of Virginia’s Trial Advocacy Institute as well as the Western Institute of Trial Advocacy. His knowledge of drug chemistry and his skill in cross-examining drug analysts were so effective that he wrote a book on the topic, The Cross Examination of an Analyst in a Drug Prosecution (2d ed. 2021). In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court cited one of Jim’s articles as evidence of the crucial flaws in the testing process that cross-examination can expose, when the Court held in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that, for Sixth Amendment confrontation purposes, drug analysts must testify to their own work. 

Jim shared his love for championing justice with his family. A year after Jim entered law school in 1958, his wife, Gilda Shellow, entered law school. Together, they formed a formidable husband-and-wife duo in the criminal defense and civil rights arenas until her passing in 2005. In the late 1960s, they worked with inner city leaders to establish a legal services program, Freedom Through Equality, which became the forerunner to Legal Action of Wisconsin, for which they both served as board members. Their daughter Robin (who died in February 2021) made a mark as an attorney in Wisconsin’s state and federal courthouses, while their daughter Jill carries on the family’s legal legacy as an NACDL member in New York where, among other work, she defends federal death penalty cases. 

At the request of Jim’s family, the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice has established the Shellow Family Scholarship Fund in honor of his memory and their commitment to excellence within the Defense Bar. For more information, visit:

NACDL President Nellie L. King said, “Jim Shellow epitomized legal excellence and was renowned for his cross-examination skills, his command of the rules of evidence, and his commitment to mentoring younger attorneys. Those are just a few reasons why Jim remained one of the nation’s most respected criminal defense attorneys across six decades. His friends and colleagues will miss him, but his legacy of improving the practice of criminal defense will forever be remembered.” 

NACDL member Dean A. Strang, a criminal defense lawyer and professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, who knew Jim for 36 years, stated: “From Jim, I learned that I always can and should do better the next time, although he never shamed me if I did my best this time. He just expected future improvement, constantly. From Jim, I learned that writing a law review article or a book is not a waste of time; it’s a joy and part of giving oneself to this calling. And in Jim, when he was on his game in court, I saw art. I saw and heard the sublime. Professionally, he leaves a hole that the thousands of us whom he mentored and encouraged may be able to fill in time and have a duty to try to fill. Personally, he leaves a void that only he could fill.” 

NACDL Executive Director Lisa Monet Wayne added, “We have lost one of the giants in our profession. Jim’s commitment to legal excellence is exemplified by the fact that he had four cases go to the U.S. Supreme Court – two on the rules of evidence, and two on freedom of speech. But beyond his technical brilliance, Jim will be warmly remembered as an empathic mentor to generations of defense attorneys. Jim was always about making the next generation of lawyers better than the ones that came before. The entire NACDL community sends our condolences to his daughter Jill Shellow, and the Shellow family and many friends.” 

Jim was born on October 31, 1926, in Milwaukee. Jim graduated from the University of Chicago in 1949, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He became a Certified Public Accountant in 1960. He served as a staff member of the Marquette Law Review, and graduated Marquette University with a Bachelor of Laws in 1961, the same year he gained admission to the Wisconsin Bar. Shellow also lectured in Advanced Criminal Law at University of Wisconsin Law School from 1972 to 80, and in 1977, he became an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He also served as a partner in Shellow, Shellow & Glynn, S.C., as well as a member of the Federal Criminal Jury Instruction Committee of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. 


Jonathan Hutson, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.

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