Seton Hall University

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson at Seton Hall  

Bryan Stevenson (photo credit Rog and Bee Walker for EJI)Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy and Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, will present on social justice and personal involvement at Seton Hall University on Sunday November 7, 2021, at 6 p.m. in Bethany Hall on the South Orange, New Jersey campus. There will be in person seating (advance registration required), and virtual streaming of the event on the Seton Hall website.

In recognition of Stevenson's lifelong commitment to social justice and advocacy for the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned – including legal representation for death row inmates and a host of extraordinary achievements as a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer – at the event Seton Hall University will award to Bryan Stevenson an honorary doctorate degree (Litterarum Humanarum Doctoris).

"The work of Bryan Stevenson reflects the mission and values of Seton Hall and the highest calling: knowledge in the service of the public good," said Provost Katia Passerini. "We are pleased of course to welcome him to the University and will fittingly convey to him one of our highest honors."

An American lawyer, Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization that under his leadership has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

Seton Hall Law Professor Jenny-Brooke Condon will formally present Stevenson. Condon directs the Equal Justice Clinic within the Law School's Center for Social Justice, where she and her students challenge injustice wrought by the criminal legal system and represent people wrongly denied access to parole. "Bryan Stevenson is an inspiration. He has changed the way attorneys and law students think about injustice and our collective responsibility to challenge it," said Condon. "Whether changing the law at the highest levels, freeing innocent people from prison, or fighting the many injustices of mass incarceration, Stevenson challenges all of us to confront our nation's history of racial injustice and to focus on the humanity of people impacted by inhumane systems."

Dean of Seton Hall University School of Law Kathleen M. Boozang agreed: "We emphasize to Seton Hall Law students the importance of having impact – one person at a time or systemically. Mr. Stevenson has accomplished both – informed by his faith, he has had dramatic impact on his clients' lives, our justice system, and the pathway of future lawyers."

Stevenson has argued and won multiple cases at the United States Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-imprisonment-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. 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.

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. These 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.

"The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice are conduits for truth and an acknowledgement of history as trauma for Black people in America," said Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett, Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, "And that trauma calls out first for recognition and then for healing."

Also a Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law, Stevenson's work has won him numerous awards, including the prestigious MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Prize; the ABA Medal, the American Bar Association's highest honor; the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union after he was nominated by United States Supreme Court Justice John Stevens; the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers; and the Olaf Palme Prize in Stockholm, Sweden, for international human rights. In 2002, he received the Alabama State Bar Commissioners Award. In 2003, the SALT Human Rights Award was presented to Mr. Stevenson by the Society of American Law Teachers. In 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and also the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild. In 2006, New York University presented Mr. Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award. Mr. Stevenson won the Gruber Foundation International Justice Prize and was awarded the NAACP William Robert Ming Advocacy Award, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award, and the Roosevelt Institute Franklin D.

Roosevelt Freedom from Fear Award. In 2012, Mr. Stevenson received the American Psychiatric Association Human Rights Award, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award, and the Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award in Social Progress. Mr. Stevenson was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2014 and won the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize. In 2015, he was named to the Time 100 list recognizing the world's most influential people. In 2016, he received the American Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Award. He was named in Fortune's 2016 and 2017 World's Greatest Leaders list. He received the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize from the King Center in Atlanta in 2018.

His book, Just Mercy, is a critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller that was named by Time magazine as one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014. Just Mercy has also been awarded several honors, including the American Library Association's Carnegie Medal for best nonfiction book of 2015 and a 2015 NAACP Image Award. Just Mercy was adapted as a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall and Brie Larson. Stevenson is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government.

This event is sponsored by the Seton Hall University Office of the Provost, the Law School and the University Core Program. A related reading program with an incentivized essay contest for Stevenson's book, Just Mercy, was coordinated by the SHU Reads program for the University's Summer Read program for the most recent class of freshmen (Class of 2025), approximately 1,700 students, and related professors of first year classes. Since 2003, all incoming first-year Seton Hall students have read a common book to introduce them to academic and student life at Seton Hall.

"The University Core is the basic unifying academic experience of all our undergraduate students and an important component of our Mission, which seeks to educate students as servant leaders, engaging the whole person," said Professor Nancy Enright, Director of the Core. "The work of Bryan Stevenson goes to the core of The Core and the Mission of the University. We are incredibly honored to welcome him to Seton Hall."

Click here for more information and to register for the event

Categories: Arts and Culture

For more information, please contact:

  • Michael Ricciardelli
  • (908) 447-3034