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Bryan Stevenson to deliver Ruth Adler Memorial Lecture before receiving honorary doctorate at summer graduation ceremony

Wed 12 June 2019

Professor Bryan Stevenson

Edinburgh Law School will host Professor Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organisation based in Montgomery, Alabama, and Aronson Family Professor of Criminal Justice at NYU Law, on 8-9 July 2019 during the University’s programme of summer graduations.

Nominated by Dr Harriet Cornell and Dr Kasey McCall-Smith, Professor Stevenson will receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at the Law School graduation ceremony on 9 July. Professor Christine Bell will deliver the laureation.

As part of the School’s graduation celebrations, Professor Stevenson will deliver the first Ruth Adler Memorial Lecture of 2019 on the evening of 8 July, entitled ‘We Need to Talk About an Injustice’. The lecture series was founded by the Adler family in memory of our former colleague, Ruth, and her career-long advocacy and activism in the field of human rights. The series has included high-profile lectures from Philippe Sands and Shami Chakrabarti, and will see a double-bill of speakers in 2019 when the School welcomes Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, on 1 October.

‘We Need to Talk About an Injustice’ is free to attend and open to all, but registration is essential via Eventbrite.

Mr. Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing in the US, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief or release from prison for over 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row and won relief for hundreds of others wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced. Mr. Stevenson has argued and won multiple cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. 

Mr. Stevenson has initiated major new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination efforts that challenge inequality in America. He led the creation of two highly acclaimed cultural sites which opened in 2018, The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.  The new national landmark institutions chronicle the legacy of slavery, lynching and racial segregation and the connection to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias.  Mr. Stevenson’s work has won him numerous awards including 39 honorary doctorates, the MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Prize, and the ABA Medal, the American Bar Association’s highest honour. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government and the author of the award winning New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy.