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Photo: Dale Robbins

Bryan Stevenson

Civil Rights Advocate

Since 1985, Bryan Stevenson has been an advocate for capital defendants and death row prisoners in the Deep South. He is now Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a private, nonprofit law organization he founded that focuses on social justice, human rights and criminal justice reform. Since 1989, EJI has litigated on behalf of condemned prisoners, people wrongly charged or convicted, poor people denied effective representation and those whose trials are marked by racial bias. In 2012, Stevenson represented defendants in the historic Supreme Court consolidated cases Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama, in which the court ruled mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional.

A recipient of many honors, Stevenson was awarded the 1995 MacArthur Fellowship Award Prize. He is also a 1989 recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award, the 1991 ACLU National Medal of Liberty, and in 1996, the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers named him Lawyer of the Year. In 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild. In 2006, New York University presented Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award. More recently, Stevenson received the 2012 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in social justice.

A graduate of Eastern College (now Eastern University), Harvard Law School (J.D.), and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (MPP), Stevenson also has honorary degrees from several universities including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University School of Law.

He has also published a number of widely disseminated manuals on capital litigation and has written extensively on criminal justice, capital punishment and civil rights issues. Stevenson joined the clinical faculty at New York University School of Law in 1998.