Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian | James E. Coleman Jr.

Duke Law Professor James (Jim) E. Coleman Jr., the 2022 recipient of the Raphael Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian Medal from the Bolch Judicial Institute, will be honored during a program (live-streamed here) at 12:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 7, 2022. In addition to receiving a medal, Professor Coleman will talk with David F. Levi, director of the Bolch Judicial Institute, about his distinguished career as a criminal defense attorney and civil rights leader.


Professor Coleman is the John S. Bradway Professor of the Practice of Law, director of the Center for Criminal Justice and Professional Responsibility, and director of the Wrongful Convictions Clinic at Duke Law School. A beloved member of the Duke faculty for more than 25 years, Coleman is a nationally recognized leader in pursuing justice for the wrongfully convicted and for death penalty reform.

Coleman’s career has been distinguished by his insistence that every person accused of a crime has a constitutional right to a robust defense and to due process. In the late 1980s, Coleman represented notorious serial killer Ted Bundy during his death-row appeals in Florida. In 2006, Coleman chaired Duke University’s ad-hoc committee charged with examining accusations of rape against members of the Duke University men’s lacrosse team. Amid overwhelming public anger toward the athletes and calls for a swift trial, Coleman argued that the evidence pointed to the athletes’ innocence and suggested prosecutorial misconduct on the part of the Durham district attorney. Eventually all charges were dropped and the district attorney was disbarred.

Time and again, in the face of fervent criticism and personal threats, Coleman has steadfastly fought for justice and due process — even for the most unpopular of clients.


The Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian series is named for Raphael Lemkin, one of the leading scholars of human rights of the 20th century who, as a refugee during World War II, joined the Duke Law faculty and conducted groundbreaking research on genocide, a term and concept he created and developed. A Polish scholar and lawyer, Lemkin dedicated his life to the study of war crimes and advocated for the use of criminal law to defend peace and prosecute crimes against humanity.

For more information, visit https://judicialstudies.duke.edu/.