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Bryan Stevenson WCL Commencement Speaker

Photo by Michael Collopy

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), joined the clinical faculty at New York University School of Law in 1998.

Stevenson has been representing capital defendants and death row prisoners in the Deep South since 1985, when he was a staff attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. Since 1989, he has been executive director of the EJI, a private, nonprofit law organization he founded that focuses on social justice and human rights in the context of criminal justice reform in the United States. EJI litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct.

Stevenson’s work has won him national acclaim, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship award (1995), the ACLU National Medal of Liberty (1991), and the Olof Palme Prize for international human rights (2000). In 1996, he was named the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers.

Stevenson has published several widely disseminated manuals on capital litigation and written extensively on criminal justice, capital punishment, and civil rights issues. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, which won the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work–Nonfiction, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books for 2014. His popular Ted Talk, “We Need to Talk about an Injustice,” has more than 3.5 million views.

He is a 1985 graduate of Harvard, with both a master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government and a JD from the School of Law.