Chief Staff Attorney with Legal Aid Society’s Guardian Ad Litem Division
By Dave Fidlin
Growing up in the south just before the civil rights movement took hold, Sheila Hill-Roberts remembers a time when the African American community did not have the same rights as their white counterparts.
“Even as a young child, I knew something was wrong with what I’d been seeing in the segregated south,” Sheila said. “When I encountered some of this, I knew these kinds of injustices had to be fought.”
Sheila, who moved from Louisiana to the Milwaukee area at age 9, said those early experiences were a springboard toward a career in law that she readily admits has been richly satisfying and, at the same time, challenging.
As chief staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s guardian ad litem division, Sheila helms a team of professionals who annually represent the interests of thousands of Milwaukee County children in family court matters.
“I’m humbled and appreciative of the recognition I’m receiving,” Sheila said of the Black Excellence Award. “But the truth is I believe I’m standing in the shadows of other great leaders. Right now, I am part of a very talented team of people who bring an incredible amount of knowledge and experience.”
Shelia and her team tackle a number of weighty issues, including parents who are sometimes addicted to drugs and suffer from alcoholism. Some of the children have suffered physical, mental and emotional trauma from the adverse circumstances they have endured.
“Guardian ad litem is a highly complex, distinct legal specialty,” Sheila said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. When it comes to custody issues, there is definitely a balancing act. But the overall concern is child safety. It’s a very delicate process.”
Shelia’s foray into the legal profession can be traced back to Hamilton High School on Milwaukee’s south side. Prior to graduating, she had an opportunity to take preliminary law courses and quickly learned she enjoyed and appreciated aspects of the profession.
For a period of time, Shelia left the Milwaukee area, graduating from Howard University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in political science. She returned to attend Marquette University’s law school, eventually earning a juris doctorate.
Outside of the Legal Aid Society, Sheila volunteers by offering pro bono assistance on legal cases, as time permits, and serves on the State Bar of Wisconsin. She also volunteers some of her time by working with inmates at the Milwaukee County Jail.
Additionally, Sheila has been a member of New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church on the city’s north side for more than 30 years and has served in a variety of capacities within her congregation over the years.
“As a child, my parents taught me to be an example in how I live and present myself to others, and I have tried to follow their advice,” Sheila said. “With the kids I encounter, I encourage them to strive for the highest in everything they do. If they get a good education, for example, they can get out of an impoverished lifestyle. They can use it as a springboard to do great things in their lives.”
Sheila has been married to Ron, her husband of 26 years. They have two children: Brandee and Caleb.
Sheila’s role in assuring the rights of abused and neglected children are fairly represented is the reason he has been named a special honoree and is receiving the Milwaukee Times Black Excellence Award as a child and youth advocate.