William “Bill” Sheppard has been prominently featured in a new book Fifty Years of Justice: A History of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida by James M. Denham, published by the University Press of Florida. From the very first page, Mr. Sheppard is identified as a prominent civil rights lawyer alongside the likes of Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, William Kunstler, Drew S. Days, and Tobias Simon.
Mr. Sheppard’s prison litigation is discussed at length, including the “landmark” case Costello v. Wainwright which ended in a settlement that “finally codified the prison system’s maximum capacity [and] mandated the population of the prison system could never exceed its maximum capacity.” Litigation linked to the case continued for nearly two decades. Years later the case was titled Celestino v. Singletary and was a class action that covered all prisons in the State of Florida. Part of the settlement in Celestino required the “creation of a correctional medical authority to assist in the delivery of health care services for inmates and to serve as an advisory board to the governor and legislature.” In a review of the book published by the Florida Times Union, Mr. Sheppard is noted for his long-time, prominent courtroom advocacy for prison reform.
The book also discusses Henry Lee Adams, Mr. Sheppard’s former law partner, who in 1972 with Bill Sheppard formed the first integrated law firm in the State of Florida, doing mostly civil rights and criminal defense work. Mr. Adams was later sworn in as the Middle District of Florida’s first African American district judge. Judge Adams now sits as a senior district court judge.
Mr. Sheppard stated that reading this book is like reading his life back to him. He is very honored to be featured so extensively in this book.