Stephen B. Bright, President and Senior Counsel for the Southern Center for Human Rights, will deliver the commencement address May 16 during the Hooding Ceremony at UM Carey Law.
In the course of his distinguished career, Bright has taught, written, testified, and litigated to help minorities and the impoverished find justice within our nation's legal system. He has twice argued successfully before the U. S. Supreme Court in death penalty cases, and has tried many other cases in state and federal courts. His unrelenting efforts are credited with spurring the creation of a statewide public defender system in Georgia.
"Stephen Bright's tireless work on behalf of vulnerable populations has made and will continue to make a significant positive difference in countless lives," said Dean Phoebe Haddon. "His dedication to justice serves as inspiration to all lawyers, but especially to young ones, who are preparing to embark on their legal careers."
In a 2003 article in the Fulton County Daily Report, which named him Newsmaker of the Year, Bright was described as bringing "a firebrand style to his mission, an uncompromising insistence that inspires some and antagonizes others. Not everyone likes him, but no one ignores him."
Indeed, he does not mince words when addressing what he sees as a broken system, telling PBS in 2004 that "[t]he criminal courts of this land are like stockyards in which people are just processed through like cattle on their way to slaughter. That's not equal justice. It's not individualized justice. It's not really justice at all."
Despite his many successes, Bright refuses to become complacent. "The criminal justice system is the part of our society that's been least effected by the civil rights movement," he recently told the American Constitution Society. "The 2.3 million people in prison are overwhelmingly black and brown and almost all poor. Every lawyer has to take ownership of this."
He urges law students, no matter what paths their future careers may follow, to “take an interest and do something about” these injustices.
Bright has received the American Civil Liberties Union’s Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty, the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Lifetime Achievement Award, and many other honors. He currently teaches at Yale Law School and at the University of Georgia School of Law.
Bright will address the Maryland Carey Law graduates on May 16 at 11 a.m. in the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Tickets are required.