Stephen B. Bright teaches courses on race and poverty in death penalty and other criminal cases. He has represented people in capital cases since 1979. He tried capital cases before juries in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, and argued capital cases before state and federal appellate courts, including four arguments before the United States Supreme Court. Three of the Supreme Court cases involved racial discrimination in jury selection and the fourth involved the right to a mental health expert for a poor person facing the death penalty. The Court ruled in favor of his client in each case.

He served as director the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta from 1982 to 2005, and as its president and senior counsel from 2006 to 2016. Before joining the Center, he was a trial attorney at the Public Defender Service in Washington, DC, and a legal services attorney at the Appalachian Research & Defense Fund of Kentucky. He was also director of Law Students in Court (now called Rising for Justice), a clinical program operated by a consortium of law schools in Washington.

He has taught at Yale Law School since 1993. Subjects of his litigation, teaching and writings include capital punishment, legal representation of poor people accused of crimes, racial discrimination in the criminal legal system, conditions and practices in prisons and jails, and judicial independence. He received the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award in 1998. The Daily Report, Georgia’s legal newspaper, named him “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2003 for his contribution to bringing about creation of a public defender system in Georgia, and “Lawyer of the Year” in 2017 for his success in challenging racial discrimination before the Supreme Court. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Georgetown University in 2015.

He is the author with James Kwak of The Fear of Too Much Justice: Race, Poverty, and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Courts(2023), and the subject of Robert L. Tsai, Demand the Impossible: One Lawyer’s Pursuit of Equal Justice for All (Norton; March 2024).