Stephen B. Bright

President and Senior Counsel

Stephen B. Bright served as director of SCHR from 1982 through 2005, and became president and senior counsel in 2006. In 2017, he transitioned to teaching full-time at Yale Law School, Georgetown, and Georgia State University College of Law. 

Subjects of his litigation, teaching and writing include capital punishment, legal representation for poor people accused of crimes, conditions and practices in prisons and jails, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, judicial independence, and sentencing. He has tried cases, including capital cases, before juries and argued cases before state and federal appellate courts. He has argued three cases before the United States Supreme Court, Foster v. Chatman136 S.Ct. 1737 (2016) (hear oral argument), Snyder v. Louisiana, 552 U.S. 472 (2008) (hear oral argument), and Amadeo v. Zant, 486 U.S. 214 (1988) (hear oral argument). In each case, the Court found racial discrimination in the selection of the juries and reversed the convictions and death sentence in each case.

He has testified on many occasions before committees of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  He has also taught at a number of other law schools, including Harvard, Georgetown, Emory, Georgia, and Tennessee.  An on-line version of his course on capital punishment that is available at Yale,  YouTube, and  iTunesU. His and SCHR's work has been the subject of a documentary film, Fighting for Life in the Death Belt, (EM Productions 2005), and two books, Proximity to Death by William McFeely (Norton 1999) and Finding Life on Death Row by Kayta Lezin (Northeastern University Press 1999).

He received the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award in 1998, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty in 1991, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s Kutak-Dodds Prize in 1992, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, several honarary degrees and other recognition set out in the curriculum vitae below. The Fulton Daily Law Report, Georgia's legal newspaper, named Bright “Newsmaker (and Agitator) of the Year” in 2003 for his contribution to bringing about creation of a public defender system in Georgia.