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Stephen B. Bright

Harvey Karp Visiting Lecturer in Law
Stephen B. Bright has been a fellow or visiting lecturer in law at Yale Law School since 1993. His class on Capital Punishment examines race, poverty, prosecutorial discretion, legal representation of the poor, judicial independence, juries, and the appropriateness of the death penalty for the mental ill and intellectual disabled.  Students in the Capital Punishment Clinic, which he co-teaches, become part of a legal team of lawyers, investigators, and experts representing people facing the death penalty.

He is also president and senior counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights, a public interest law program that deals with human rights in the criminal justice and prison systems. He served as director of the Center from 1982 through 2005, and has been its president and senior counsel since 2006. He was previously a public defender in Washington, DC, and a legal services attorney in the coal fields of eastern Kentucky. He has represented people facing the death penalty before juries and state and federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court, where he won reversals of two capital cases because of racial discrimination in jury selection. He has also litigated class action challenges to inadequate legal representation of poor people accused of crimes and to unconstitutional conditions and practices in prisons and jails.

He has written essays and articles on capital punishment, the right to counsel, racial discrimination in criminal cases, judicial independence, and other topics. He has testified on these subjects before Congressional committees and as an expert witness in cases. He has taught courses on criminal law and capital punishment at other law schools, including Chicago, Emory, Georgetown, and Harvard. He received the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award in 1998.  Georgia’s legal newspaper named him “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2003 for his role in bringing about the creation of a public defender system in Georgia.

J.D., University of Kentucky, 1974
B.A., University of Kentucky, 1971

Courses Taught
Capital Punishment: Race, Poverty, and Disadvantage
Capital Punishment Clinic