Dewitt C. Holbrook Lecture on Social Justice

The Dewitt C. Holbrook Lecture on Social Justice, which will take place each fall, provides prominent leaders in the legal profession a forum to address issues on law and policy related to social justice. It is made possible through a grant from the Dewitt C. Holbrook Memorial Trust.

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    2022 Lecture

    On Monday, April 25, 2022, The 4th annual was presented by The Honorable Rowan D. Wilson. The lecture series provides prominent leaders in the legal profession a forum to address issues on law and policy related to social justice. This year’s lecture titled “Outside In: Perspectives on Criminal Law and Procedure from a Former Outsider” is presented by The Honorable Rowan D. Wilson, Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals, State of New York. Judge Wilson will share insight to various aspects and issues of criminal law and procedure while deciding on such cases from the bench.

    About the Speaker

    The Honorable Rowan D. Wilson, Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals, was born in Pomona, California, and grew up in Berkeley, California. He received his A.B. degree from Harvard College in 1981, and his J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1984. He was admitted to the bar of the State of California in 1985, and the bar of the State of New York in 1987. From 1984 to 1986, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable James R. Browning, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, California. In 1986, he joined the firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City as an associate, and was elected to partnership there in 1991, in which position he continued until February 2017. His practice encompassed a wide variety of matters, including antitrust, intellectual property, securities and common-law fraud, contract, labor and employment, civil rights and first amendment issues. On January 15, 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo nominated Judge Wilson to serve as an Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals, and the New York State Senate confirmed his nomination on February 6, 2017. While in private practice, Judge Wilson served on the boards of several charitable and not-for-profit organizations and handled numerous pro bono matters.


    2021 Lecture

    On March 2, 2021, the 3rd annual lecture was presented by Professor Ruqaiijah Yearby of Saint Louis University School of Law. The lecture titled “Now or Never: Eradicating Structural Racism in the Government’s Pandemic Response” was via Zoom. 

    About the Speaker

    Professor Ruquiijah Yearby, J.D., M.P.H., is a Professor of Law and member of the Center for Health Law Studies at Saint Louis University School of Law. She is also co-founder and Executive Director of Saint Louis University's Institute for Healing Justice and Equity. Professor Yearby is an expert in racial health disparities, who advocates for equal access to quality health care and fair wages for racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the poor. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Bioethics, Health Affairs, and the Oxford Journal of Law and the Biosciences and been used in law and medical schools, and social science classes at universities such as Harvard, NYU, Fordham, and the University of California Berkeley.


    2019 Lecture

    The national discussion about voting rights was front and center when Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson spoke at Detroit Mercy Law on Oct. 28, 2019 as the 2nd annual lecture.

    A national leader in election law, Benson delivered her lecture titled “Voting Rights at the Core of a Just Society” as part of Detroit Mercy Law’s Dewitt C. Holbrook Lecture on Social Justice series.

    Benson is the author of State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process, the first major book on the role of the secretary of state in enforcing election and campaign finance laws. In her lecture, she discussed the connection between the right to vote and the struggle for social justice, particularly how efforts to win civil rights have been intertwined with access to the ballot throughout American history and how those themes continue to reverberate today.

    A graduate of Harvard Law School and an expert on civil rights law, education law and election law, Benson served as dean of Wayne State University Law School. She was appointed dean at age 36, becoming the youngest woman in U.S. history to lead a top-100, accredited law school. She continues to serve as vice chair of the advisory board for the Levin Center at Wayne Law, which she founded with former U.S. Senator Carl Levin. She served as director of the center from fall 2016 until August 2017. Previously, Benson was an associate professor and associate director of Wayne Law’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.


    2018 Lecture

    On October 22, 2018, the national debate about policing, criminal justice and race relations was front and center when Georgetown University Law Professor Paul Butler spoke at Detroit Mercy Law.

    Butler, whose book Chokehold: Policing Black Men was named a Notable Book in 2017 by the Washington Post, was the inaugural speaker in the series.

    Butler is one of the nation’s most frequently consulted scholars on issues of race and criminal justice. In his lecture, he explored issues of racism and police violence, and discussed the critical need for reform in the U.S. criminal justice system.

    Butler researches and teaches in the areas of criminal law, race relations law and critical theory. His research has been published in many leading scholarly journals, including the Yale Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review, the Stanford Law Review and the UCLA Law Review. He is the author of the widely praised book Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice, which received the Harry Chapin Media award.

    His scholarship has been the subject of much attention in the academic and mainstream media. His work has been profiled on “60 Minutes,” “Nightline,” and the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news, among other places.