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Adegbile’s Denied Confirmation Is Affront To Our Principles

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Adegbile’s Denied Confirmation Is Affront To Our Principles

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Last week, the floor of the U.S. Senate was the scene of a bipartisan travesty, an affront to the principles of the Constitution, an assault on the notion of American exceptionalism. With the help of several Democrats, Republicans refused to confirm Debo P. Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee to head the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.

The GOP’s resistance was expected since its senators oppose every nominee the president puts forward. But this time, Adegbile’s new job was torpedoed because a handful of Democrats stepped forward to help launch the explosives. They found objections in Adegbile’s résumé, despite his impeccable credentials, sterling reputation and years of advocacy in the causes associated with civil rights.

Indeed, it is precisely that advocacy that led to the assault on his qualifications. His alleged misstep? Adegbile, a lawyer, was tangentially involved in filing a court challenge on behalf of a former Black Panther named Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. Adegbile was litigation director for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when it filed a brief contesting the jury-sentencing instructions, an argument which resulted in commutation of Abu-Jamal’s sentence from death to life in prison in 2012.

That process is embedded in decades of case law. Defense attorneys are supposed to vigorously represent accused criminals — no matter the crimes with which they have been charged, no matter their guilt or innocence, no matter how radical their demeanor or vile their behavior — especially in capital cases.

Among the people who ought to understand that is Pennsylvania’s senior Democratic senator, Bob Casey. If he had any decency, any gumption, any courage, Casey would have helped to smooth Adegbile’s path.

He would have noted that American justice rests on the idea that each person stands equally before the bar, a credo that cannot be upheld without defense attorneys for the accused. The senator might have pointed out that in the U.S. armed forces, even the most heinous criminals are represented by competent defense counsel. And he might have reminded Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police that Adegbile did not spare Abu-Jamal’s life. A federal court did so because it agreed that instructions to the jury were unconstitutional.

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Cynthia Tucker Haynes

Cynthia Tucker Haynes, a veteran newspaper journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a Visiting Professor of Journalism and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Georgia. She is also a highly-regarded commentator on TV and radio news shows.

Haynes was editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper for 17 years, where she led the development of opinion policy. More recently, she was that newspaper’s Washington-based political columnist. She maintains a syndicated column through Universal Press Syndicate, which is published in dozens of newspapers around the country. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, Haynes has also received numerous other awards, including Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists.

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52 Comments

  1. Daniel Jones March 8, 2014

    Clearly, as always, the opposite of progress is Congress.

    Reply
  2. dtgraham March 8, 2014

    This has to do with the Voting Rights Act and has little, if anything, to do with Abu-Jamal. Adegbile is a brilliant civil rights attorney who’s been a very effective advocate for the Voting Rights Act over the years. That’s where he made his name. The GOP are still trying to finish the job of killing the Act and didn’t relish going to battle with Adegbile.

    John Roberts once defended a death row inmate in Florida who killed 8 people, and the right didn’t say a word about that in his nomination process for the Supreme Court. Their ‘politicization of Abu-Jamal’s case by Adegbile’ argument is even factually inaccurate as it was another attorney associated with Adegbile’s legal defense fund who attended a Mumia Abu-Jamal rally, without his knowledge, and not Adegbile himself.

    Lawyers take on and get assigned to all kinds of cases. Everyone has to have legal representation in our system. That’s the rule. The suggestion that certain cases disqualify an attorney from ever assuming public office is pretty specious.

    Reply
    1. 4sanity4all March 8, 2014

      You put it so well. Every defendant has the right to an attorney. And every attorney is supposed to do his best for every client. And it is very disingenuous of these Republicans to act like they don’t know that. And what is up with Democrats blocking the President’s appointments?

      1. dtgraham March 8, 2014

        They completely fell for the Republican’s and Fox New’s cop killer cover story. Don’t think that Jon Stewart’s Bulls**t Mountain doesn’t shift the terms of the debate, from time to time, from reality to the imagined fever swamp of the right. They’ve perfected the art of yelling long and loud and baiting the rest of the media.

        1. patti livernash March 10, 2014

          my Aunty Amelia got a new blue Land Rover
          LR4 only from working part time off a home computer… helpful hints J­u­m­p­9­9­9­.­ℂ­o­m

      2. dtgraham March 9, 2014

        I’ve since had a look at which Democratic Senators voted against this nomination. I notice many of them come from red states. For them, it may have been a survival vote as much as anything. Their electoral prospects in those states are tenuous at best without having a vote for the “black cop killer lawyer” on their resume, as Fox News has managed to turn this into an issue.

        I think the left just has to understand that Democratic Senators from red states have to talk a little differently and vote a little differently than Democrats elsewhere. It’s still better than having a Republican, even if only marginally so in some cases.

        Having said that, Senators like Chris Coons and Bob Casey need to give their heads a shake.

        1. CPAinNewYork March 10, 2014

          Debo P. Adegbile killed a cop and Obama nominates him to head the Civil Rights Division? There’s the disgrace.

          It’s about time that the minorities learned that the United States government doesn’t exist to protect cop-killers.

          1. Allan Richardson March 10, 2014

            Fact check: Debo did NOT kill a cop, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME. He was assigned to defend the cop killer on an appeal, which was the cop killer’s LEGAL RIGHT. You cannot reach valid conclusions from false premises, at least not in the REAL world, only in the Faux FANTASY world.

          2. Sand_Cat March 10, 2014

            I think you’re a bit confused. WHO was it that killed the cop?
            My recollection is that there was room for doubt, even if he ultimately lost.
            Finally, our system requires zealous defense lawyers, especially in cases where there is suspicion of racial or other bias.
            Besides, do you think the Constitution is only to protect the popular and universally lauded? They don’t need the protection!
            If you can present legitimate evidence of misconduct on the attorney’s part, that’s a legitimate complaint. Otherwise, Civil Rights in this country need vigorous and skillful advocates.

          3. latebloomingrandma March 10, 2014

            You idiot. did you even read the story?

          4. Independent1 March 10, 2014

            Not sure where you’re getting the notion that Debo killed a cop, he did not such thing. For your info, here’s a recap of his story from an article in the Huffington Post:

            As an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (the same organization once led by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall) Debo Adegbile was part of the team that successfully challenged the death sentence imposed on Mumia Abu-Jamal, who had been convicted of killing a police officer in 1981. Neither the LDF nor Adegbile ever argued for Abu-Jamal’s innocence; instead they simply argued that every defendant is entitled to a sentencing hearing free of constitutional error. That position was vindicated by an appellate court which included two Reagan-appointed judges.

            Providing legal assistance to unpopular, even reviled, figures is not an uncommon resume item for figures who go on to high public office. John Adams, while advocating for American independence, successfully defended the British soldiers accused of killing colonists in the Boston Massacre. Much more recently, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts faced no criticism at his confirmation hearing for his pro bono representation of a convicted mass murderer who had killed eight people.

            I’m back: Declining to confirm Adegbile was a gross mistake by all those who voted against him; especially the Democrats; it was unconscionable – he is far more than qualified!!

          5. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

            I must improve my comprehension of Muslim and Muslim-sounding names. I should have read more closely. My problem is that I have such a strong dislike of the Muslims that I skimmed the article.

            That said, I’m still happy that the Senate refused to confirm Adegbile. Muslim Obama is trying to load up his administration with his buddies.

          6. Independent1 March 11, 2014

            Muslim Obama?? He may be able to lay claim to some in his ancestory being Muslim, but you apparently have no clue what it means to be a Muslim – there’s no way Obama could be conforming to all that Islam requires of its believers without the entire world being well aware that that is his true faith.

          7. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

            Sure I know what it takes to be a Muslim: a homicidal disposition, dynamite and a death wish.

        2. Douglas Johnson March 10, 2014

          In other words they have to “Bow to Bigotry.”

          1. dtgraham March 10, 2014

            They either felt that way or were conned by the propaganda. I don’t respect the decision of these red state Dems or admire them for what they did, but in politics you do what you have to do sometimes as long as it’s not too egregious (depending on your personal interpretation of egregious).

            It’s too bad though that one or more of them couldn’t have found the courage to take a different stand.

        3. silas1898 March 10, 2014

          Casey, Coons and the rest of them are pandering to white, suburban voters.

        4. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

          Interesting point of view. Those who disagree with you are pandering to bigotry. That’s an easy conclusion for you to make. It’s a classic no-brainer.

          Don’t give any thought to the possibility that those Democratic senators just might object to raising an ultra liberal political hack with a race agenda to the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

          Again, i’m happy that Dodo got his just desserts.

      3. CPAinNewYork March 10, 2014

        The Democrats saw the wisdom of dumping some clown who has an ax to grind. Maybe this ass-whipping will remind the President that this country isn’t ready to kow-tow to the minorities.

        1. charleo1 March 10, 2014

          Have another drink, Corn Pone! Maybe you’ll discover more wis-dumb, you’ll want to share.

          1. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

            Go to hell, super-liberal. This country is going to pot because we have too many clowns like you anxious to kiss the asses of the minorities.

    2. CPAinNewYork March 10, 2014

      Everyone is entitled to legal representation, but that doesn’t extend to turning the government over to some clown who has an obvious ax to grind.

      1. Allan Richardson March 10, 2014

        What ax to grind? Preserving voting rights for minorities?

      2. dtgraham March 10, 2014

        He successfully appealed Abu-Jamal’s death sentence as unconstitutional because the jury was improperly instructed. Federal appellate courts twice upheld that. He’s also worked tirelessly against red state vote suppression efforts in heavily Democratic areas. Those are the only two axes that I know about CPA.

        1. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

          Anybody with a name like his has axes to grind. What Muslim, third world hellhole did he crawl out of?

          1. dtgraham March 11, 2014

            So you figure it’s really just the name then. Well you might have a point. At birth my parents officially christened me, ‘Crybaby Booby’. It was a rough childhood. After I legally changed my name to ‘Dynamic Terrific’ (dt) everything changed for me. Before that I had a real ax to grind.

          2. CPAinNewYork March 12, 2014

            Maybe “dt” refers to “delerium tremens”, which supposedly is a result of prolonged alcohol abuse.

  3. charleo1 March 8, 2014

    Another example of what I see as just more pandering to the rampant anti-intellectualism. Where a trained professional in matters of the law, takes full advantage of the partisanship already known to exist aganist any nomination this President makes. Then, basing said objection on the ignorance of the law. Where once again, it is known full well to exist, as
    a matter of intense pride, among a growing segment of the population.
    We understand the Constitution, (not as some high flution, lawyer.) And, we’re pretty sure it’s not being followed! Especially in those liberal cause
    cases, involving African Americans, accused of crimes aganist a White person. In this case a White law enforcement officer, that would, again,
    in some circles, and some groups, be assumed to be protecting the White race from the maniacal, and violence prone, Black man. But this also serves as an excellent example of the gutless Democrat, does it not? Oft maligned, and rightly so, for not carrying any courage whatsoever, on the foundational convictions of the Party he professes to represent. It is by such actions, the Democratic Party receives it’s most damning accusation. And we hear it, that in reality, there’s no difference between the Parties. And those of us that believe different, are the biggest fools of all. From McConnell we may expect. To Senators such as Casey, and Coons, congratulations for letting your Party, and your President down. And by association, a fool out of me!

    Reply
    1. CPAinNewYork March 10, 2014

      Casey and Coons didn’t make a fool out of you. God did that.

      Your screed is typical of the uneducated clod that presumes to write long winded comments that are ungrammatical, illogical and politically biased. You should take your third grade education and go to Africa, where your “logic” would be better appreciated.

      1. charleo1 March 10, 2014

        And, I really needn’t tell you what I consider your mental
        capacity capable of. People like you should thank God,
        there are people like me. Maybe if you sang a couple of
        verses of Dixie, it would help. “Oh I wish I were in Dixie!!!”
        Bigot assed M F-er.

        1. Mikey7a March 11, 2014

          May I take this opportunity to point out the fact that CPA, is in fact, from NY? This sort of proves my point that ignorance, and bigotry, are NOT always indicative of one’s Zip Code. Native Floridian here, and I couldn’t agree with charleo1 more, if I tried!

          1. charleo1 March 11, 2014

            Native Floridian myself. Yes, old CPA sticks his head in the NM board, anytime there’s an immigration issue, or the protection of a minorities’ Civil Rights, come up. But he’s fair. He hates all
            Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, and what he
            calls, “Super Liberals,” like me, all the same. It’s
            a club I’m honored to be included in, actually.
            And, I love New York City. Very progressive, fast
            paced, cutting edge. If he’s in the City, I’ll bet he
            sticks out like a sore thumb. Or, keeps his views
            to himself.

      2. Sand_Cat March 10, 2014

        Your screed bears a far closer resemblance to one written by an “ignorant [and bigoted] clod.”

  4. Oscar's Wilde March 9, 2014

    If democratic processes are to help preserve liberty, prosperity, and civilization, then liberty’s preservation must be the primary objective of the citizens’ elected agents.

    Reply
    1. CPAinNewYork March 10, 2014

      So, what’s your point?

      1. lemstoll March 10, 2014

        Looks like a cut and paste troll poster…flag…

        https://www.google.com/search?q=Since+a+free+nation+cannot+eliminate+discontent+due+to+envy%2C+if+we+are+to+preserve+liberty%2C+we+must+not+sanction+envy+with+%22social+justice%22.&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS509US569&oq=Since+a+free+nation+cannot+eliminate+discontent+due+to+envy%2C+if+we+are+to+preserve+liberty%2C+we+must+not+sanction+envy+with+%22social+justice%22.&aqs=chrome..69i57.765j0j8&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=119&ie=UTF-8#q=If+democratic+processes+are+to+help+preserve+liberty%2C+prosperity%2C+and+civilization%2C+then+liberty’s+preservation+must+be+the+primary+objective+of+the+citizens’+elected+agents.

  5. CPAinNewYork March 10, 2014

    I’m glad that the Senate dumped Debo P. Adegbile. What kind of a name is that for a member of the United States government? What is he, some African tribesman? Maybe he’s Obama’s witch doctor.

    I don’t like the policies of the Republican Party, but i’m glad that they joined with some Democrats to refuse to turn the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division over to some clown from the dregs of American society.

    Reply
    1. Allan Richardson March 10, 2014

      I won’t reply to you, but to everyone else reading: if this is an example of “reasoning” by CPA, judge for yourself whether you should hire him to be your accountant.

    2. charleo1 March 10, 2014

      Hey, spoiler alert. Most Republicans don’t like the policies of the
      Republican Party. But like you, stay for the hate. What else is there?

    3. Sand_Cat March 10, 2014

      Again, your screed can be best answered by “pot calling kettle black,” and that’s being charitable to you.

    4. Independent1 March 10, 2014

      You’re not only wrong about Debo not being a cop killer, you’re wrong about his nationality – he’s Irish and Nigerian; brought up by his Irish mother in New York City. And instead of leading an African tribe as you surmized, he was a child actor on Sesame Street for 9 years – If you’re in your mid to late 40s and can remember Sesame street – you probably watched Debo back then on TV. And if you’re really from NYC, you’re probably familiar with some of the law firms he worked at.

      Here’s a little background on Debo:

      Born, Adebowale Patrick Akande Adegbile in New York City, Adegbile is the son of a Nigerian father and an Irish immigrant mother.[1] He was raised by his single mother. He also was a child actor on the children’s TV show Sesame Street during the 1970s, playing the character Debo and performing in episodes for nine years.[1][2]

      Adegbile studied at Lehman College in 1986 and 1987 and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991 from Connecticut College. He then earned a law degree from New York University School of Law in 1994.[3]

      During law school, Adegbile served as a legal assistant in the summer of 1991 for the New York law firm Solin & Breindel and then was a summer associate during the summer of 1992 for Morrison & Foerster. In the summer of 1993, Adegbile served as a summer associate for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He then joined the firm full-time as an associate in the firm’s litigation department in 1994, holding that position until 2001.[3]

      In 2001, Adegbile joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he served as assistant counsel from 2001 until 2004, associate director of litigation from 2004 until 2007, director of litigation from 2007 until 2010, associate director-counsel/director of litigation from 2010 until 2014, acting president and director counsel from 2012 until 2013, and special counsel in 2013. Adegbile argued his first case before the United States Supreme Court in 2008, making a defense of the Voting Rights Act.[2]

      1. charleo1 March 11, 2014

        You are going to make his head explode. Keep it up!
        Outstanding column by the way! As usual, lifting up
        the comment board to the next level.

        1. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

          Go f??k yourself. I can see that you and your fellow liberals are really perturbed by Dodo’s failure to get approved for the Civil Rights Division job.

      2. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

        You’ve convinced me that his liberal credentials are impeccable…and disqualify him for any position in the Justice Department. He wouldn’t serve the government. he would act as an advocate for the liberal block, especially the minorities. I voted for Obama in 2012 because I despise Romney and his elitist agenda, but I also despise the politically correct super liberals who would turn this country over to the minorities if they could.

        1. Independent1 March 11, 2014

          Have you been hitting the sauce a bit too much lately CPA? You seem quite a bit more ornery than usual.
          You really think that an Irish mother who was probably abandoned by the Nigerian father of her son raised him up as a Muslim??? I’m really beginning to think that you’ve been hitting the sauce hard – you’re not only more ornery, you’re also more delusional than usual too.

          1. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

            Nigeria has a lot of Muslims. It’s probable that Debo was made Muslim before his father took off.

          2. Sand_Cat March 11, 2014

            Wow, what set you off? I always knew you were a bit more conservative than the rest of us, but never realized you were such a full-fledged flaming bigot and birther. I guess no matter what, this guy has to be a Muslim to you, so you can justify your racism with religious hatred.

  6. charles king March 10, 2014

    Senator Casey, I always felt you did some Critical Thinking When? you presented anything but this time I think you let your ethnic back-ground get involve with this situation. I lived in Philadelohia, Pennsylvania for sixty some years. I taught school in the segregated public school system. The Police Department never had a civil relation with the Black citizens of the city. I could go on and on about the abruse the Blacks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received from the police force. Adegbile was the lawyer for Abu-Jamal and I feel he did a good job as a lawyer for his plainif. Why? are you disagreeing against the President of these United States. Who? are you representing When? we the people need a good lawyer to keep the Voting rights act working because The Vote is the only thing the People have against MONIES. WOW! cant you be true to thy-self. Integrity is very important in life.Thank You are the magic words in my book. I love Ya All. P.S. Be-Ware of Plutocracts they are only in the game for the MONIES. Mr. C. E. KING

    Reply
    1. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

      Where did you learn English? Your grammar is terrible.

      1. Sand_Cat March 11, 2014

        Better bad grammar than bad faith and irrational hatred.

        1. CPAinNewYork March 11, 2014

          You can understand this guy’s drivel? I guess one diseased mind is in tune with another here.

  7. Redplanet March 11, 2014

    In all likelihood, if Adegbile were nominated by a republican, and if he were also a republican, Gop members will support him en masse. How come the cons always get their way?

    Reply

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