Area attorney fights for civil rights, abuse victims
STATE COLLEGE — The silky blond hair of a golden retriever could be seen through the glass door entrance of the law office of Andrew Shubin, the civil rights attorney recognized for his fight against Penn State University and his representation of numerous male survivors of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
Tilley, Shubin’s 5-year-old dog, lay on the rug at the door, her tail eagerly wagging as she greeted visitors to the law office.
“I bring her to work because she is comforting to my clients who are usually under a lot of stress,” Shubin said.
The 55-year-old lawyer has been working as an attorney for almost 30 years, tackling constitutional and civil rights cases often involving government agencies and large institutions and representing what he called a “marginalized population” of clients.
“Most of the people I represent have very little faith in the judicial system. They have very little faith in the institutions where power is accumulated,” Shubin said. “Most of the people I represent have been victimized by an abusive power,” he said, referring to the Sandusky case.
“These institutions that are designed to protect our children, in essence, were the very same ones that fed these children to a pedophile,” he said. “One of the most important parts of what I do is that we hold people accountable for that kind of misconduct and for those violations of the law.”
Shubin has handled numerous cases of sexual abuse including those involving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and others over the years.
A woman involved in a sexual harassment case against her employer described Shubin as welcoming and supportive and as an attorney who was more concerned about her than money.
“He actually cares about the people he represents. It’s not just about another case for him,” she said. “He’s passionate about what he does.”
“He takes his dog to work, to the office … and it’s just so comforting” she added.
“I think that also just speaks to his character,” the woman said.
The woman asked not be named due to the sensitive nature of the case and the settlement.
In addition to sexual abuse cases, Shubin has sued Blair County Prison for a civil rights violation resulting in an inmate’s suicide, fought against same-sex benefits discrimination, secured monetary damages for a high school survivor of athletic coach hazing and defended clients based on First Amendment grounds including an Allegheny Township flag desecration case.
Witold Walczak, ACLU legal director in Pittsburgh who’s worked with Shubin for years, said Shubin protects the rights of more challenging, unpopular clients. “We’ve never had a large stable cooperation of attorneys in central parts of Pennsylvania. So Andy has long been a gem for us in State College.”
“Andy is a terrific lawyer and a consummate professional,” Walczak added. “Andy looks at the law and the situation and doesn’t let public opinion sway his handling of the matter.”
Sean McGraw, deputy district attorney of Centre County and Shubin’s former law partner, said “Andy has always had a strong commitment to civil rights” and tries to “redress the wrongs committed by the government.”
It was while immersing himself in policy and politics as a legislative aide in Bucks County when Shubin realized he wanted to become a lawyer.
Shubin went on to earn a juris doctor degree from Temple University School of Law in 1991 after his undergraduate education at University of Pittsburgh.
He attended Tel Aviv University in the early 1980s during the time when Israel went to war with Lebanon.
After graduating, he worked as a staff attorney for a public interest prisoners rights project for four years. For two years after that, Shubin worked in a civil legal services program, focusing on cases involving police misconduct in Philadelphia.
He opened his law firm, Law Office of Andrew Shubin Inc., in 1998, taking on cases in Centre, Blair, Bedford and Mifflin counties.
Shubin is a member of many professional affiliations including MidPenn Legal Services, Pennsylvania Prison Society, ACLU board of directors and American Association for Justice.
“To work with people who begin to recognize that there are institutions out there that are willing to step in and willing to help them — that they are not alone — is an incredibly moving experience for me,” Shubin said. “And really, one of the best parts of being the kind of lawyer I am.”
While the Sandusky case played a large role in his career, Shubin said continuing to protect and defend children who have been sexually abused is the most important part of his mission moving forward.
Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.