Professor, Harvard Law School, Clinical Professor of Law Director, Criminal Justice Institute
Harvard Law School Professor Ronald Sullivan has fought to get more incarcerated people out of prison – over 6,000 – than arguably anyone in American history. He is a global leader in combatting wrongful convictions and in advocating for criminal justice reform, having testified before Congress multiple times in this capacity and appearing regularly as a legal analyst on various major news networks. He was also tapped to represent the Family of Michael Brown in their wrongful death suit against the City of Ferguson and Darren Wilson – a case stemming from facts which have spawned a global movement and defined a generation.
Professor Sullivan was tasked with designing and implementing a Conviction Review Unit for the newly elected Brooklyn District Attorney in 2014. This unit, designed to identify and exonerate wrongfully convicted persons, quickly became regarded as the model conviction integrity program in the nation. In its first year, Professor Sullivan discovered over 10 wrongful convictions, all of which the District Attorney ultimately vacated; most of the exonerees had served decades before being released.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, over 6,000 citizens were incarcerated in and around New Orleans without legal representation and with all official records destroyed; Professor Sullivan was asked to solve this problem. He designed and oversaw an indigent defense delivery system that resulted in the release of nearly all the inmates. Shortly thereafter, Professor Sullivan chaired his former Harvard Law School classmate Barack Obama’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee and was also a member of Obama’s National Legal Advisory Group, appointed to make legal policy recommendations for the Obama campaign.
Professor Sullivan is currently part of the head legal defense ‘Dream Team’ for former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez in his double homicide case in Massachusetts, among various other high-profile representations. Professor Sullivan is also known to take on countless cases, pro bono, across the nation, in addition to the cases he oversees as Director of Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute. As a young defense attorney with hundreds of clients during his years as a public defender in Washington, D.C., Professor Sullivan broke records by never losing a case.
Professor Sullivan’s scholarship centers around criminal law, criminal procedure, democracy, and race. He began his teaching career at Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious award for Outstanding Teaching after just his first year. He now teaches criminal law and procedure at Harvard Law School, in addition to serving as director for Harvard’s Criminal Justice Institute, a premier indigent defense clinic, and overseeing Harvard’s Trial Advocacy Workshop twice a year, an intensive three-week trial practice course which features high-profile lawyers and judges from around the country. Professor Sullivan also serves as Master of Winthrop House at Harvard College and was the first African-American ever appointed Master in Harvard’s history.