Renowned US public interest lawyer delivers FLAC annual lecture

1 December 2014

Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson, EJI Executive Director

Legal rights group FLAC today welcomed renowned US public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson who will deliver the organisation’s annual lecture this evening in Dublin.

“Bryan Stevenson has argued against the death penalty and injustice in the US legal system for many years and he shows from a different perspective the need for advocacy and law to prevent oppression and injustice. Equal Justice Initiative, the organisation he founded and leads, is a brilliant example of how a legal rights organisation can meet huge unmet legal need and FLAC is deeply honoured that he is here to talk about how law is used in the public interest in the United States,” explained FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell.

“As a public interest legal rights body, FLAC also works with law to promote better access to justice. An enormous amount of our work is done by volunteer lawyers, in particular through our Public Interest Law Alliance and through our partnership with Citizens Information Centres around the country.  It is an opportunity for those lawyers who work in the public interest to engage with the experience of an American public interest lawyer. We bring together our volunteer lawyers from all around Ireland, from all sizes of law firms and from all levels of the Law Library, as well as others who work with us to reinforce that important link between law, lawyers and access to the justice system.

“We in FLAC share that conviction with Bryan Stevenson that without access to the legal system and without access to the people who know how it works,  people who are poor and who are on the margins are at high risk of not vindicating their rights to access justice and to receive a legal remedy,” she added.

Bryan is the author of a recent best-selling book, ‘Just Mercy’, based on his experience as a lawyer in Alabama, where Equal Justice Initiative is based, working with people who are poor and who experience institutional racism. Speaking ahead of the lecture, Mr Stevenson commented “A society can’t be judged by its protection of the rich, the powerful and the privileged. You judge the character of a society, its civility and commitment to the rule of law not by how it treats the affluent, but by how it treats the poor, the incarcerated and the disfavoured.”

The Dave Ellis Memorial Lecture is happening on the same day that FLAC is presenting a report to the United Nations outlining concerns from more than 50 voluntary organisations nationwide on Ireland’s record on economic, social and cultural rights over the past decade. This precedes an official UN examination on Ireland which commences this week and culminates in a full examination in June 2015.

“FLAC’s focus today is on the importance of monitoring and implementing basic human rights – using law to promote rights that ensure people can live in dignity. Therefore  FLAC is particularly proud to welcome Bryan Stevenson here to Dublin to talk about access to justice, what it means for those who are not born to privilege, and what we can do to ensure that every person, regardless of his or her circumstances, can access that right,” concluded Ms Blackwell.