Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 09/01/2011

Bryan A. Stevenson, Class of 1976

Founder, Equal Justice Initiative

Bryan Stevenson is the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama and also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law.  He is widely acclaimed as one of the most effective public service lawyers in America. A graduate of both the Harvard Law School, where he was awarded the Harvard Fellowship in Public Interest Law, and of the Harvard School of Government, where he was awarded the Kennedy Fellowship in Criminal Justice, Mr. Stevenson has devoted his life to helping disadvantaged people in the deep south.  He and his staff have been largely responsible for reversals or reduced sentences in over 65 death penalty cases.

In 1985 Mr. Stevenson joined the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia as a staff attorney.  From 1989-1995, he represented capital defendants as the Executive Director of the Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center.  As Executive Director of EJI, Mr. Stevenson represents indigent defendants, death row prisoners and juveniles who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.  Mr. Stevenson is committed to informing policymakers in the critically important work of reforming the administration of criminal justice, and he assists counsel representing death row inmates by providing training materials and consultation.

Mr. Stevenson’s work on behalf of condemned prisoners has attracted national
recognition and acclaim from the Washington Post, the New York Times, People Magazine, LIFE Magazine and several national television programs including Nightline and 60 Minutes, which featured a case where he and his staff achieved the release of a death row prisoner who spent six years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

 In 1995, Mr. Stevenson was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award for his work.  He has also received many other national honors.  In 1989, he received the Reebok Human Rights Award along with the Chinese student leaders at the Tiananmen Square.  In 1991, he received the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union after he was nominated by United States Supreme Court Justice John Stevens.  Mr.Stevenson was named the 1996 Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers. In 1999, he was awarded the Gleitsman Foundation’s National Citizen Activist Award and in 2000, he received the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights.  The American Bar Association has honored Mr. Stevenson with its John Minor Public Service and Professionalism Award.  In 2002, he received the Alabama State Bar Commissioners Award.  In 2003, the SALT Human Rights Award was presented to Mr. Stevenson by The Society of American Law Teachers.  In 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers of American Law Teachers and also the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild.  In 2006, New York University presented Mr. Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award.  In 2008, Mr. Stevenson received the Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara University School of Law.  In 2009, Mr. Stevenson won the Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize.  In 2010, Mr. Stevenson was presented with the NAACP William Robert Ming Advocacy Award and the National Public Service Award from Stanford University Law School. In 2011, Mr. Stevenson was awarded the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Lifetime Achievement Award and also the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award. 

Mr. Stevenson has additionally received honorary degrees from Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Washington University, Eastern University, City University of New York School of Law, Metropolitan College of New York, The Bank Street College of Education, Bard College, Villanova University, Santa Clara University School of Law, Fairfield University. the University of San Francisco and Loyola University.

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