Senate fails to advance nomination of controversial lawyer tapped to lead Civil Rights at DOJ

By Jon Campisi | Mar 7, 2014

The United States Senate issued a stinging rebuke to the Obama

administration on Wednesday when it failed to advance the nomination of a controversial lawyer tapped to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

Senators, in a bipartisan 47-52 vote, opted not to invoke cloture on Debo Adegbile, a civil rights attorney who became a controversial figure when it was learned that he had worked for the Legal Defense Fund during a time when the group was working to throw out the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of fatally shooting Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in the early 1980s.

The former local radio personality has since had his death sentence overturned; he’s currently serving out a life sentence in Pennsylvania’s prison system.

In January, the Pennsylvania Record reported on a state Republican lawmaker who introduced a House resolution calling on U.S. senators to oppose Adegbile’s nomination as the next assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.

At the time, State Rep. Eli Evankovich said that the killing of Faulkner was still a “very sensitive issue for law enforcement and all Pennsylvanians, particularly because of the national attention that continues to be given in support of a known cop killer.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams had also gone on record opposing Adegbile’s nomination, as did both of Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Bob Casey.

In a news release from his office Wednesday, Toomey called the vote to defeat Adegbile’s nomination a “good day for Pennsylvania, for America, and for those who believe in justice.

“It was a hard fought victory to the end,” Toomey stated. “Today the Senate affirmed that our criminal justice system must never be abused to propagate a dishonest, radical agenda. The American people, especially law enforcement and Maureen Faulkner, deserve better.”

Maureen Faulkner, the slain officer’s widow, has for years been a tireless advocate for justice in the Abu-Jamal case.

The woman’s advocacy is contrasted with the Abu-Jamal supporters who have sprung up across the globe throughout the years.

Those supporters contend that Abu-Jamal was actually innocent of the crime, and was instead the victim of a racial American justice system in the early 80s.

The White House released a statement following Adegbile’s Senate defeat in which the administration called the vote a “travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.”

In all, seven Democrats, including Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Delaware’s Chris Coons and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, voted against Adegbile’s nomination.

The Obama administration, however, felt the defeat was undeserved.

“Mr. Adegbile’s qualifications are impeccable,” the White House statement read. “He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience, and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked.

“The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant.”

Adegbile, who served as Solicitor General under Obama’s predecessor, President Bush, has been working in the legal profession since the early 1990s.

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