10/26/2004

Lawyer Honored for Commitment to Justice

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Bryan Stevenson, director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, was honored Saturday for his commitment to justice and the struggle for equality. The National Lawyers Guild, holding its annual conference here, gave him its Law for the People Award.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) of Alabama, based in Montgomery, is a private, nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system.

It litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, innocent people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct. EJI works with communities that have been marginalized by poverty and discouraged by unequal treatment.

EJI also prepares reports, newsletters and manuals to assist advocates and policymakers in the critically important work of reforming the administration of criminal justice.

Introducing Stevenson to the 400 conference participants was Center legal director Rhonda Brownstein. The Center supports EJI's work with a substantial yearly grant.

"Because of his efforts, six men have walked free from Alabama's death row and dozens of others have had their capital cases and death sentences overturned," Brownstein told the crowd.

Stevenson, who also serves as a clinical law professor at New York University School of Law, is considered one of the top public interest attorneys in the United States. Among his other awards are the MacArthur Foundation's "Genius Award," the ACLU's National Medal of Liberty, the Thurgood Marshall Medal of Justice and the American Bar Association's Wisdom Ward for Public Service.

Stevenson is a 1985 graduate of Harvard, with both a master's in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government and a J.D. from its law school.