Demand the Impossible: One Lawyer's Pursuit of Equal Justice for All

Demand the Impossible: One Lawyer's Pursuit of Equal Justice for All



How four Supreme Court cases in recent years—all argued and won by one indomitable lawyer—are central to the pursuit of equal justice in America.

Stephen Bright emerged on the scene as a cause lawyer in the early decades of mass incarceration, when inflammatory politics and harsh changes to criminal justice policy were crashing down on the most vulnerable members of society. He dedicated his career to unleashing social change by representing clients that society had long ago discarded, and advocated for all to receive a fair trial.

In Demand the Impossible, Robert L. Tsai traces Bright’s remarkable career to explore the legal ideas that were central to his relentless pursuit of equal justice. For nearly forty years, Bright led the Southern Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit that provided legal aid to incarcerated people and worked to improve conditions within the justice system. He argued four capital cases before the US Supreme Court—and won each one, despite facing an increasingly hostile bench. With each victory, he brought to light how the law itself had become corrupted by the country’s thirst for severe punishment, exposing prosecutorial misconduct, continuing racial inequality, inadequate safeguards for people with intellectual disabilities, and the shameful quality of legal representation for the poor.

Organized around these four major Supreme Court cases, each narrated in vivid and dramatic detail, Tsai’s essential account explores the racism built into the criminal justice system and the incredible advancements one lawyer and his committed allies made for equal rights. An electrifying work of legal history, Demand the Impossible reveals how change can be won in even the most challenging times and how seemingly small victories can go on to have outsized effects.



Publication Date



W. W. Norton & Company


New York


Stephen Bright, Supreme Court, equal rights, criminal justice


Law | Legal Writing and Research

Demand the Impossible: One Lawyer's Pursuit of Equal Justice for All