Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in her youth, she was known for her portrayal of the irrepressible Zelda Gilroy in the television series, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Four episodes were filmed, but the project was dropped when rumors began to circulate that she was a lesbian. When she was passed over for a promotion in favor of a man with less experience she began to see major obstacles for women in the job market.
Sheila Kuehl then went back to school, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978 where she was the second woman in the school's history to win the Moot Court competition. She became an attorney specializing in Feminist causes.
Kuehl drafted and fought to get into California law more than 40 pieces of legislation relating to children, families, women, and domestic violence. She was a law professor at Loyola, UCLA and USC Law Schools and co-founded and served as managing attorney of the California Women';s Law Center. She is currently a member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers.
She also served as President of the Women Lawyers' Association of Los Angeles and as a member of the California Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Gender Bias in the Courts. She has trained judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and women's advocates across the nation on domestic violence issues.
She ran fot the election to the California State Assembly. During her first two terms in the Assembly, Kuehl authored thirty-eight bills that were signed into law to further protect domestic violence victims and their children, tighten child support enforcement, prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender in the workplace and in education, increase the rights of crime victims, safeguard the environment, and fund after school programs for at-risk youth.
At the invitation of President Clinton, she addressed the 1996 Democratic National Convention on the issue of family violence. In 1996 George magazine selected her as one of the 20 most fascinating women in politics and the California Journal named her Rookie of the Year. In 1998 the California Journal ballot taken among legislators, the press, legislative staff and lobbyists chose her as the most intelligent Assembly member as well as the member with the greatest integrity.
Sheila James Kuehl, now in her third legislative term in the California State Assembly, is the chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. In the 1997-98 session she was the first woman in California history to be named Speaker pro Tempore of that body. She is also the first open gay or lesbian person to be elected to the California Legislature.
Kuehl represents the 41st Assembly District in Los Angeles County and serves on the Appropriations, Health, and Water Parks & Wildlife Committees as well as the Joint Committee on the Arts. She is the chair of the Select Committee on Entertainment and the Arts, is a member of the Select Committee on the San Gabriel Valley Groundwater Contamination and currently serves on the Judicial Council of California and the California Coastal Conservancy.