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Following Controversy, Steinberg Will Lecture at Law School

By Andrew M. Duehren, Crimson Staff Writer

Following controversy surrounding her role in an online video, Robin Steinberg, a New York public defender whose invitation to a Harvard Law School event was rescinded earlier this year, will deliver the inaugural “Trailblazer” lecture there in April.

The “Trailblazer” lecture is hosted by the Criminal Justice Institute, directed by Law School professor Ronald S. Sullivan. Efforts to bring Steinberg to Cambridge began after pushback against the decision to rescind her initial invitation.

“We felt that it was only fair that she had the opportunity to speak,” Sullivan said. “Ms. Steinberg has made significant and groundbreaking contributions in the area of criminal law.”

Steinberg, who serves as the executive director of the Bronx Defenders, was initially slated to be honored as part of the Women’s Law Association and the Law and International Development Society’s International Women’s Day, an annual event that celebrates women both in and out of the legal field. But the two Law School student groups rescinded the honor last month because of Steinberg’s role in an online video “Hands Up.”

The Harvard Law School Library.
The Harvard Law School Library. By Muhammad H Tahir

The YouTube video was controversial for what some claimed was an endorsement of the killing of white police officers in retribution for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed black men who were killed by police officers last year. Steinberg came under fire because the video featured two attorneys from the Bronx Defenders. A New York City investigation revealed that Steinberg did not check the content of the video before allowing her employees to take part, and, as a result, she was suspended from her job.

Soon after Steinberg’s first honor was rescinded, other Law School students started planning to recognize her in a different capacity. Sullivan said efforts were made to bring Steinberg to campus in midst of the controversy.

He said that while the Criminal Justice Institute hosts many different lecturers each year, Steinberg’s will be the first “Trailblazer” lecture, which will take place on April 10.

Steinberg will also participate in the conference that “Unbound: Harvard Journal of the Legal Left” hosts each spring, according to Rebecca N. Chapman, a third-year Law student and editor of the journal.

—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.

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