Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University School of Law. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machinations, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Stevenson’s work has won him national acclaim. In 1995, he was awarded the prestigious 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, he was named the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers. In 2000, Stevenson received the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden for international human rights and 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, NYU presented Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award. He has also received honorary degrees from several universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown University School of Law. Stevenson has served as a visiting professor of law at the University of Michigan School of Law. He has also 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 Carnegie Medal for Best Non-Fiction, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction.
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 Equal Justice Initiative (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.
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, Bryan Stevenson joined the clinical faculty at New York University School of Law in 1998.