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Debo Adegbile
Doing your job as a lawyer is the wrong approach, 52 senators say.
Seven Senate Democrats joined Republicans Wednesday to reject cloture and block the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. The vote was 47-52. Majority Leader Harry Reid voted "aye" but switched his vote for procedural reasons. President Obama called the decision a "travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks."

The point of contention? Adegbile, who is senior counsel for Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, once worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Doing his job as a lawyer for that organization, he succeeded in getting the death sentence of black nationalist Mumia Abu-Jamal commuted. Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982 of slaying a white police officer, Daniel Faulkner.

The case goes back to a dark period in Philadelphia history, when the MOVE group of black separatists clashed frequently with the Philadelphia political and law enforcement community. The case bounced around the appeals process for years, with the backdrop of continued violence between MOVE, which Abu-Jamal was affiliated with, and the predominantly white police force. The feud reached a nadir in 1985, when police allowed a MOVE compound in West Philadelphia to burn in a confrontation, and the conflagration went on to consume several city blocks. That incident is the topic of a recent documentary by Jason Osder, “Let the Fire Burn,” which has renewed interest in the conflict and stories behind it, such as Abu-Jamal’s case.
Republicans labeled as extreme Adegbile, who, let me repeat, was doing his job as a lawyer in the Abu-Jamal case. Doing precisely the same kind of work that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was doing pro bono in the case of John Ferguson, who was convicted in 1978 of killing eight people in Florida, one of the state's worst mass murderers.
“I am supporting him, and I have met him, and I have carefully examined his record,” [Senate Majority Whip Richard] Durbin said. “The accusations they are making against him are fundamentally and totally unfair.”

“I think the accusation is that the president is picking someone for the Division of Civil Rights who has been a leader in civil rights,” Durbin continued, adding that Republicans have “historically been troubled by … appointments [to the post] no matter who they are.”


Please read below the fold for more in this infuriating story.

But in one of the most twisted and appalling arguments for a ridiculous vote ever, Democrat Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said:

"As a lawyer, I understand the importance of having legal advocates willing to fight for even the most despicable clients, and I embrace the proposition that an attorney is not responsible for the actions of their client.

The decade-long public campaign by others, however, to elevate a heinous, cold-blooded killer to the status of political prisoner and folk hero has caused tremendous pain to the widow of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and shown great disrespect for law enforcement officers and families throughout our region. These factors have led me to cast a vote today that is more about listening to and respecting their concerns than about the innate qualifications of this nominee."

In other words, Coons prefers to use his vote to punish Adegbile who he concedes was just doing his job, is highly qualified, is not responsible for what Abu-Jamal was convicted of doing and is not responsible for what others did to bring Abu-Jamal's case to the public.

The senator from Delaware seems to have avoided taking the high road because he doesn't even know where it is.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 10:44 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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