Duke law professor to receive Phillips Award

Attorney, scholar and civil rights advocate Jim Coleman ’66 will be honored with the John and Elizabeth Phillips Award.

March 18, 2024
Jim Coleman '66 at Duke Law School

The Trustees have chosen James E. Coleman Jr. ’66; P ‘16 as the recipient of the 2024 John and Elizabeth Phillips Award, which recognizes an Exonian who has contributed significantly to the welfare of community, country or humanity.

As an attorney, law professor and civil rights advocate, Coleman has been nationally recognized as a leader in pursuing justice for the wrongfully convicted and for death penalty reform. A member of the Duke University faculty for more than 25 years, he is currently 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.

Over 15 years in private practice with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C., Coleman was known for litigating a wide range of cases, including criminal (capital post-conviction), employment discrimination and numerous other civil rights actions. He was also active in the firm’s pro bono program, advising civil rights organizations and representing clients in discrimination cases. In 1987, he received the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Pro Bono Award for his contribution to the enforcement of civil rights laws. Coleman has also served in various government roles, including deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Education.

In 2022, the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School awarded Coleman the Raphael Lemkin Rule of Law Guardian Medal, which honors individuals who work to protect the rule of law in their everyday work, in ways large and small.

Coleman will receive the John and Elizabeth Phillips Award and speak during assembly on Oct. 25.