Mary Robinson, BJ Bernstein and NYU Brennan Center for Justice Recognized for their Exemplary Dedication to the Cause of Justice
John Jay College of Criminal Justice presented the 2009 John Jay Justice Awards to Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; BJ Bernstein, a prominent Atlanta-based attorney; and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law on April 14. An audience of elected officials, public leaders and other dignitaries were on hand for the ceremony held in the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre of the College.
Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms Magazine, presented Mary Robinson with the global leader for justice award in recognition of her extraordinary commitment to human rights efforts.
The national leader for justice award was given to the NYU Brennan Center for Justice in acknowledgement of the Center’s advocacy on behalf of democracy. Hon. Judith Kaye, retired Chief Judge of the State of New York, presented the award to James E. Johnson, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Center.
The community leader for justice award was presented to BJ Bernstein by Congressman John Lewis, civil rights hero, in recognition of her winning the freedom of Genarlow Wilson, the 17-year old Georgia teenager sentenced to 10 years in prison for consensual sex with a teenage girl. Mr. Wilson also participated in this presentation.
The John Jay Medal for Justice, named after John Jay, a founding father and first Chief Judge of the United States, was created in 2008 to honor individuals and organizations that exemplify dedication to the cause of justice. The Hon. Judith Kaye was the first recipient.
“The John Jay Medal for Justice recognizes two luminaries and one exceptional organization for their extraordinary contributions to justice," said John Jay President Jeremy Travis. “They affirm the commitment of John Jay the man and John Jay College’s -- enduring commitment to strengthen society’s social fabric through justice and civic engagement.”
In addition to the presenters and recipients, notables participating in the ceremony included:
• Linda Fairstein, former prosecutor and noted crime novelist, who will serve as emcee.
• Lynn Redgrave, Golden Globe winner and Oscar/Tony Award nominee, who will give a reading on the nature of justice.
• Anthony McGill, principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and part of the quartet who performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, who will offer a musical tribute.
• Genarlow Wilson.
The selection of the John Jay Justice Award Recipients was determined by a Committee of the John Jay College Foundation Board.
The college would like to offer special thanks to Richard J. Tarlow, a member of the John Jay College Foundation Board, for graciously underwriting the Justice Awards.
About the Award Recipients:
Mary Robinson, a lifelong advocate for international human rights, is the President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative. Formerly, she served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002 and as President of Ireland from 1990-1997. She is a member of the Elders, a group of internationally respected leaders. The Elders offer their collective experience, and above all their independent voices to support the resolution of conflict, to seek new approaches to easing human suffering – and to give voice to those who struggle to be heard. Other members include Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu. Ms. Robinson chairs the Council of Women World Leaders, the Fund for Global Human Rights and the GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.) She also serves as President of the International Commission of Jurists and Honorary President of Oxfam International.
BJ Bernstein’s commitment and dedication to the pursuit of justice for her clients and in turn the public is unparalleled. In 2007, she represented and won the freedom of Genarlow Wilson, a 17-year old convicted of a felony for aggravated child molestation for engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15-year old girl. The case was instrumental in causing the Georgia State Legislature to change the law, reducing such consensual acts between minors from a felony to a misdemeanor. A former prosecutor, she has held many civic leadership positions including serving as Chair of the Atlanta Judicial Commission. Ms. Bernstein founded My5th.org, a non-profit organization devoted to educating youth about the law. She is a former Vice-President of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (GACDL) and served as Co-Chair of the Amicus Committee. She is active in the Atlanta Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL); the International Bar Association (IBA); Georgia Association of Women Lawyers; American Bar Association and the Georgia Bar Association.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. The Center’s work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism. A singular institution—part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group—the Brennan Center combines scholarship, legislative and legal advocacy, and communications to win meaningful, measurable change in the public sector.
About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/.