As Miranda noted yesterday, the Right had launched a full-scale smear campaign Debo Adegbile, who had been nominated by President Obama to serve as head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, over the fact that Adegbile was in charge of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when it helped provide legal representation to Mumia Abu-Jamal.
That campaign against him succeeded as yesterday the Senate failed to confirm his nomination and Sen. Pat Toomey could not be more proud, making the case against Adegbile the focus on the remarks he delivered a CPAC today, asserting that the effort to defend Abu-Jamal was part of an "international campaign to lionize a cop-killer" that "was based on hatred for America, contempt for our criminal justice system, and the goal was to indict America as a hopelessly racist country."
And Toomey was not going to accept that, which is why he launched the fight against Adegbile's nomination because "nobody should be able to make a mockery criminal justice system, fan the flames of racial strife in America, join a dishonest international anti-American campaign, along the way drag the family of a fallen police officer through three decades of hell and then be confirmed to a high post in the Justice Department":
The Senate today failed to invoke cloture on the nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Every Senate Republican and seven Democrats voted to filibuster Adegbile’s nomination after a concerted right-wing smear campaign targeted the nominee. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also changed his vote to no as a procedural tactic.)
From the very beginning, the Right’s problem with Adegbile was that he would be a strong leader of an office that they despise. As we wrote in January,
Conservatives have not been fans of the civil rights division under the leadership of President Obama and Attorney General Holder, who installed now-Labor Secretary Tom Perez to restore the division to itsoriginal purpose after neglect under the Bush administration. In other words, President Obama has nominated civil rights advocates to the office and encouraged them to enforce civil rights measures….which is just too much for some conservative activists to bear.
So, opponents of the Civil Rights Division’s work went looking for reasons to smear Obama’s nominee to head it. Luckily for them, former Bush administration official J. Christian Adams, who specializes in concocting race-baiting stories made for Fox News (he’s the one who invented the New Black Panther Party freakout) was on the case.
Adams and his allies focused on Adegbile’s work at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he helped provide legal representation to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convicted murderer whose sentence of capital punishment had been based on jury instructions that violated the United States Constitution. The court agreed and Abu-Jamal was resentenced to life in prison. As Adam Serwer writes today, it is hardly unheard of for executive branch and judicial nominees to have histories of representing unsavory clients – Chief Justice John Roberts, for instance, had done pro bono work on behalf of a man who had murdered eight people.
But the attack on Adegbile stuck, as Fox News called him a “cop killer’s coddler,” the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer devoted several segments of his program to attacking him, the Wall Street Journal editorialized against him (also attacking him for his work defending the Voting Rights Act), and Senators Pat Toomey and Ted Cruz publicly spoke out against him. In a speech on the Senate Floor yesterday, Cruz said that Adegbile’s work at LDF was “fanning…flames of racial tension.”
So now, the Civil Rights Division – which works to combat problems like housing and employment discrimination, protect voting rights, and ensure the rights of people with disabilities – continues without someone to head it. Which, of course, was the Right's goal all along.
Washington, DC – People For the American Way today commended President Obama for nominating three qualified Pennsylvanians to seats on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The three nominees, Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro, Luis Felipe Restrepo, and Jeffrey L. Schmehl, continue the gender and ethnic diversity that President Obama has brought to the federal courts. Two of the three are of Hispanic heritage, and one, Quiñones, would become the first openly gay Hispanic federal judge. Notably, the professional diversity of these nominees is also significant. Restrepo’s and Schmehl’s professional careers include time as public defenders and Quiñones’s background includes work with a community legal services program.
“These nominees are emblematic of the president’s commitment to nominating qualified, diverse nominees to the federal bench,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “They are also a sign of the president’s commitment to solving the vacancy crisis in our federal courts without delay. One week after his reelection, the president nominated seven Americans to fill district and circuit court vacancies. Today, he has taken an important step in tackling the longstanding vacancy crisis in Pennsylvania.”
Pennsylvania’s federal courts currently have eight vacancies. Two nominees for seats considered “judicial emergencies” have been waiting over four months for confirmation votes from the Senate, despite the stated support of their home-state senators.
“It took far too long for Quiñones, Restrepo and Schmehl to be nominated for long-vacant seats on Pennsylvania’s courts, through the process set up by Senators Casey and Toomey,” added Baker. “And there are still three vacancies on the Eastern District yet to be filled. It is critical that the senators act expeditiously to send recommendations to the White House for these three remaining seats so that Pennsylvanians have access to fully functioning federal courts. It is also taking far too long for the Senate to confirm the two pending Pennsylvania Middle District nominees, because of obstruction by Senate Republicans. Sen. Toomey must stand up to his Republican leadership and urge them to allow confirmation votes on the 19 nominees who have spent as long as eight months languishing on the Senate floor.”