Bryan Stevenson, professor of clinical law and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, has won a 2009 International Justice Prize from the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation. The award is given to those who have “advanced the cause of justice as delivered through the legal system.” Judge Thomas Buergenthal ’60 of the International Court of Justice was one of last year’s recipients.
Stevenson is one of two awardees who will each receive $250,000 during a ceremony this fall. The EJI represents indigent defendants, death row inmates, and juveniles who it believes have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system. This term, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide the case of EJI client Joe Sullivan, who was convicted of rape at the age of 13 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In December, Stevenson filed a petition in Sullivan v. Florida asking the Court to determine whether Sullivan’s sentence violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
“In securing access to justice for those most in need of protection from discrimination—including, at times, discrimination within the legal system itself—Bryan Stevenson … assist[s] oppressed minorities in developing the voice and arguments they need to demand equal justice under law,” said U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald of the Western District of Tennessee, who was a member of the prize committee. “[His] work is a model for human rights advocacy and presents a compelling case for the necessity of focusing on and developing public interest law in legal education and practice.”
Stevenson’s share of the prize money will be contributed to EJI’s budget.
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