Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, delivered the commencement speech at Spring 2010 UNC School of Law commencement ceremony, held at 5 p.m. on May 9 in the Dean E. Smith Center. Approximately 250 students were scheduled to cross the stage and receive their J.D.
Stevenson is nationally recognized for his work challenging the bias in the criminal justice system against low-income people and people of color. He has assisted in securing relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for the poor and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice. Stevenson is a graduate of the Harvard School of Law and the Harvard School of Government. He is currently on faculty at the New York University School of Law. The Equal Justice Initiative is a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent prisoners and defendants who have been denied fair and just treatment within the legal system.
Stevenson has won the American Bar Association's Wisdom Award for public service, the ACLU's National Medal of Liberty (1991), a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award, the Reebok Human Rights Award (1989), the Thurgood Marshall Medal of Justice (1993), the Gleitsman Foundation Citizen Activist Award (2000), the Olof Palme Prize (2000) and the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers named him the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year (1996). He has received honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and Georgetown University Law School. In addition to directing the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson has been a visiting professor of law at the University of Michigan School of Law and lecturer at Harvard and Yale law schools.
Stevenson is a co-recipient of the 2009 Gruber Prize for Justice, which is presented to individuals or organizations for contributions that have advanced the cause of justice as delivered through the legal system. The award is intended to acknowledge individual efforts, as well as to encourage further advancements in the field and progress toward bringing about a fundamentally just world.
The commencement ceremony is open to the public. Participants do not need tickets and may invite as many friends and family as they like. A reception will be held following the ceremony in the Rotunda at UNC School of Law, 160 Ridge Road, Chapel Hill.
-April 22, 2010