An examined life of thoughtfulness and grace
William Stuntz, a renowned scholar of criminal justice at Harvard Law School, an evangelical Christian and a teacher beloved by students and colleagues, died March 15 after a long battle with cancer.
Stuntz, 52, joined the HLS faculty in 2000 and was named the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law in 2006. His influential scholarship over the past three decades addressed the full spectrum of issues related to criminal justice and procedure, from the overcrowding of prisons and racial disparities in incarceration to the appropriate role of faith, emotion and mercy in the penal system. He wrote three dozen law review articles and essays on criminal law. This fall, Harvard University Press will publish a book he wrote on the collapse of the criminal justice system.
Extremely popular among his students for his compassion and accessibility, Stuntz was the 2004 recipient of the HLS Sacks-Freund Teaching Award, given by the graduating class to honor a professor for his or her contributions to teaching.
“Among his many gifts to us was the grace with which he lived his life,” said Dean Martha Minow. “In knowing Bill, we couldn’t help but be reminded to live life as our better selves. He described and lived his life in recognition of the need for humility and also for judgment and work to repair what we find around us. His devotion to family and friends remains legendary. Those of us lucky enough to have been able to consult with him for personal or professional advice will never forget his insights and generosity.”
From his perspective as a legal scholar and also an evangelical Protestant, Stuntz co-wrote a blog, “Less than the Least,” with fellow evangelical David Skeel, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
In March 2010, a large group of his many admirers, including legal scholars, colleagues, friends and students, gathered at HLS for a two-day conference, “A Celebration of the Career of Bill Stuntz.”
Born on July 3, 1958, Stuntz grew up in Annapolis, Md., then attended the College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia School of Law. After two judicial clerkships, he was a law professor at the University of Virginia for 14 years until he joined HLS.