On June 10, 2009, the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation announced that it will award its 2009 Justice Prize to EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson and to the European Roma Rights Centre for their “tireless advocacy of human rights for individuals belonging to oppressed groups that historically have not had an effective voice in, or access to, the justice system.”
The Justice Prize will be awarded in a ceremony this fall celebrating the achievements of the recipients, who will share the $500,000 prize.
Mr. Stevenson’s prize will go into the budget of the Equal Justice Initiative, which lost a critical source of funding when a major donor lost money in the investments of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff. The funds will advance EJI’s work representing people in prison who cannot afford legal help and challenging life imprisonment without parole sentences imposed on young children throughout the United States.
European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law organization that combats anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma in Europe.
In a release from the Gruber Foundation, Judge Bernice Donald, U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee, said that the recipients’ work demonstrates “what can be accomplished against tremendous odds when highly principled, knowledgeable, and committed people appeal for justice.”
“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 and ERRC assist oppressed minorities in developing the voice and arguments they need to demand equal justice under law,” Judge Donald said. “Their 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.”