Statement of Juan Cartagena President & General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF On the Cloture Vote for Assistant Attorney General
Posted on 03/05/2014 @ 11:10 PM
Pandering to Race and Fear the U.S. Senate Leaves a Gaping Hole in Civil Rights Enforcement By Refusing to Promote Debo Adegbile as Assistant Attorney General
Today the U.S. Senate refused to stop the debate and push the nomination of Debo Adegbile, an eminently qualified civil rights attorney, as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Every Republican member and seven Democrats rejected a cloture vote by pandering to the fear of American voters by reducing a stellar career in civil rights enforcement to one episode of his former organization, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, representing Mumia Abu-Jamal in a post conviction appeal that challenged his death sentence.
Today Mr. Adegbile is faulted for upholding the highest principles of the bar by representing on appeal a defendant that was vilified by the press, a black man convicted of killing a police officer in Philadelphia. Years ago John Roberts worked to defend a convicted mass murderer when his law firm took on the defense. During his confirmation hearings no one in the Senate questioned his qualifications based on the conduct of his client. He now sits on the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is impossible not to recognize the racialized nature of today’s decision by the Senate. Indeed, Senator Harking chastised his colleagues for this racial double standard. If you’re a white attorney working at a law firm that courageously defends convicted murderers your bona fides remain intact. If you’re a black attorney working for the nation’s premier Legal Defense Fund that courageously provides representation to a convicted murderer you are deemed “unfit.”
The consequences for African-American, Latino, Native American and Asian American voters and victims of discrimination are clear. It is one more day without an effective and accomplished leader at the helm of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. We urge the Senate to reconsider this development and vote in favor of the nomination of Debo Adegbile. More pointedly, we urge those Democrats in the Senate who impeded the cloture vote to recognize the confusing and disturbing messages the body is sending to America and change their positions on this excellent nominee.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF is one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations that works to protect the civil rights of Latinos throughout the country and promote their entry into the legal profession. It is on record in support of Mr. Adegbile because of its direct experience of co-counseling major civil rights litigation with him and with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.