Ronald S. Sullivan Jr.
Jesse Climenko Clinical Professor of Law
Director, Criminal Justice Institute
Professor Sullivan is a leading theorist in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics, and race theory. He is the faculty director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop. Professor Sullivan also serves as Faculty Dean of Winthrop House at Harvard College. He is the first African American ever appointed Faculty Dean in Harvard's history. He is a founding member and Senior Fellow of the Jamestown Project.
Professor Sullivan has merged legal theory and practice over the course of his career in unique and cutting-edge ways.
In 2014, Professor Sullivan was tasked to design and implement a Conviction Review Unit (“CRU”) for the newly elected Brooklyn District Attorney. The CRU, designed to identify and exonerate wrongfully convicted persons, quickly became regarded as the model conviction integrity program in the nation. In its first year of operation alone, Professor Sullivan discovered over 10 wrongful convictions, which the DA ultimately vacated. Some of the exonerated citizens had served more than 30 years in prison before they were released.
In 2008, Professor Sullivan served as Chair, Criminal Justice Advisory Committee for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. In this capacity, Professor Sullivan’s committee made policy recommendations on a range of issues in an effort to put into practice some of the best research in the field. He also served as a member of the National Legal Advisory Group for the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign. Finally, Professor Sullivan was appointed Advisor to the Department of Justice Presidential Transition Team.
In 2007, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Professor Sullivan was asked to create a system to solve a criminal justice crisis. Over 6000 citizens were incarcerated in and around New Orleans without representation and with all official records destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Professor Sullivan designed an indigent defense delivery system that resulted in the release of nearly all the 6000 inmates.
In 1994, Professor Sullivan was a visiting scholar for the Law Society of Kenya, where he sat on a committee charged with drafting a new constitution for Kenya. He also worked with the Kenyan Human Rights Commission on monitoring and challenging human rights abuses.
Prior to joining Harvard’s faculty, Professor Sullivan was on the Yale Law School faculty where he won the award for outstanding teaching after his first year. Before joining the legal academy, he served as the Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. He also spent several years in private practice in two major Washington, D.C. law firms where he specialized in white-collar criminal defense and complex commercial litigation.
Professor Sullivan still maintains an appellate and trial practice. He has represented persons ranging from politicians to professional athletes to recording artists to pro bono clients in criminal jeopardy. Representative clients include: The family of Michael Brown; Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez; The family of Usaamah Rahim.
Professor Sullivan has provided legal commentary for CNN, FoxNews, PBS, and all the major networks. He has been quoted in the nation’s leading newspapers and periodicals, and he has testified before the United States Senate and House of Representatives on numerous occasions.
Professor Sullivan is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and the Harvard Law School, where he served as President of the Harvard Black Law Students Association and as General Editor of the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal.