Politics & Government

Blocked Obama nominee for Justice’s Civil Rights Division withdraws

Debo Adegbile, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, withdrew his name from consideration Monday, unable to overcome a bipartisan Senate filibuster.

The move comes after senators failed to advance Adegbile’s nomination last March on a 47-52 procedural vote in which seven Democrats – including Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., - voted against him.

News of Adegbile’s withdrawal coincides with the announcement that he’s joining Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, a private law firm. He will work in the firm’s Litigation/Controversy Department in New York.

‘Debo Adegbile is an exceptional attorney who will bring a wealth of experience and good judgment to private practice,’ said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Adegbile was senior counsel to the committee. ‘I appreciate the wise counsel he provided to me and my staff on a wide variety of complex legal issues. I wish him continued success.’

Lawmakers in both parties expressed unease about Adegbile’s nomination because of his involvement as a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

The legal defense fund was successful in convincing a federal court not to reinstate the death penalty imposed initially on Abu-Jamal.

The case became a high-profile affair that many on the political left and within the African-American community said exposed racism within Philadelphia’s police department. Those on the right said the trial showed Abu-Jamal was nothing more than a radicalized, cold-blooded cop-killer.

Faulkner’s widow and the Fraternal Order of Police railed against Adegbile’s nomination. His supporters, including Obama, said it was unfair to block the nomination of a lawyer for representing his client.

Some Republicans made Adegbile’s nomination a campaign issue. Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who moved to New Hampshire and is running against Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, issued a statement on Adegbile’s withdrawal Monday that took a swipe at his opponent and Obama.

‘His controversial representation of a convicted cop killer is offensive to law enforcement and victim’s rights groups, not only here in New Hampshire but around the country,’ Brown said in a statement. ‘Just as troubling as President Obama’s nomination of Mr. Adegbile was Senator Shaheen’s support of it.’