Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Guilt by Association
March 7, 2014 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Debo Adegbile was selected by President Obama to be assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The Senate, aided and abetted by seven Democratic senators, killed his nomination. Why? Because he’s fought for civil rights.
posted by T.D. Strange (50 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite Senator weighs in:
Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin called out the Senate for judging Obama’s Department of Justice nominee Debo Adegbile by "a terrible double standard..."
For a body made up of so many lawyers, they seem to have a shit grasp of the law and how it works. Then again, not many public defenders representing us, are there?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:26 AM on March 7 [7 favorites]


If they were actually competent lawyers, they wouldn't be politicians.
posted by petrilli at 9:34 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


I would hope that all the lawyers in the House and the Senate would realize that, if you can tar a lawyer with whom he represents, all the cozily corporate lawyers out there are opening themselves up to a populist onslaught. Of course, the double standard that money and influence enable will likely render that distinction moot.
posted by Bromius at 9:36 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


I can accept Bob Casey (and to a lesser extent Chris Coons) voting against him because the mere mention of Mumia gets tempers flaring in Philadelphia and vote-pandering is a thing.

The rest of them can jump in a lake.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:36 AM on March 7


Wait, if you accept Casey's and Coons' vote pandering, why not accept all the rest? Because that's all it was. For all of them.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:43 AM on March 7


For the ones where it's not vote pandering, it's just not wanting to have competent people enforcing civil rights law. Since there are bunch of senators out there who undoubtedly feel like their future prospects depend on voter suppression, it's something like anti-vote pandering.
posted by immlass at 9:46 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]


It doesn't seem to be a problem when corporate lawyers are nominated to regulate the industries they represented. Strange.
posted by ardgedee at 9:46 AM on March 7 [12 favorites]


Race-baiting and misunderstanding the law: Why the senate destroyed Obama nominee Debo Adegbile
Part of the reason is that the Senate is brimming with lawyers, and many of their friends and close associates — or perhaps they themselves — have represented clients who’ve been charged with terrible things.

But that’s only the case because lawyers, more than most, take the principle that anyone who faces conviction deserves a competent defense very seriously. If representing someone who did terrible things becomes a professional liability, that principle becomes endangered.

That’s why the current chief justice of the Supreme Court was confirmed overwhelmingly in 2005 despite having defended a man who was recently executed for murdering several people. If this ad hominem principle didn’t exist, Americans Fore Prosperitee would’ve run misleading 30-second ads in 1860 attacking Abraham Lincoln for getting Duff Armstrong acquitted of murder just two years earlier.

But that all changed on Wednesday when a handful of Senate Democrats joined the entire Republican Party and rejected Debo Adegbile’s nomination to run the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Not because his policy views are troubling or because he lacks qualification, but because he participated in the legal defense of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Specifically, he headed an NAACP Legal Defense Fund team that successfully kept Abu-Jamal off death row, and, along with other LDF lawyers, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court alleging bias and racial discrimination in Abu-Jamal’s jury selection process.

If you’re a talented young lawyer with lofty public-service ambitions the lesson here is don’t affiliate yourself with advocacy groups, don’t take pro bono cases, keep your nose buried in corporate work. If you honor your juridical duty to ensure that even monsters receive fair hearings you will be accused of coddling them.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:48 AM on March 7 [27 favorites]


Well maybe if congress would have gotten up off their asses in 1980 and declared mumia is an enemy combatant, then we wouldn't have to be worrying about details like legal representation, fairness, right to a defense, or justice.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:49 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


From NPR: Three Lessons From Obama's Failed Justice Department Nomination
posted by Going To Maine at 9:51 AM on March 7


The ‘travesty’ of Debo Adegbile’s defeat
The smear campaign against Adegbile from conservative media has been especially over the top, with one Fox News pundit going so far as to call him a “cop killer coddler.”

It’s apparently easy for some – including a majority of the U.S. Senate – to forget that in the United States, we believe that everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a defense. It’s a basic principle woven into the fabric of our justice system. No matter how heinous or shocking the allegations, we’re committed to a process in which defendants are treated fairly, including a right to competent counsel.

Americans have believed this since before we were even our own country. In 1770, John Adams provided the defense for eight British soldiers accused of the murders in the Boston Massacre. It didn’t mean Adams was un-American. It didn’t even stop Adams from later becoming president.

A majority of the Senate lost sight of this today. It was not the institution’s finest hour.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:51 AM on March 7 [5 favorites]


I'm used to Mumia Abu-Jamal being a local third rail, mainly.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:51 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


Huh? This is news? Congress has killed almost every single one of his nominations.
posted by Melismata at 10:00 AM on March 7


Huh? This is news? Congress has killed almost every single one of his nominations.

Notice that 7 Democrats voted against, after the purported filibuster reform. Also, the 'why' here raises troubling questions, detailed in the actual links.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:04 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Huh? This is news? Congress has killed almost every single one of his nominations.

Because Republicans threw tantrums using procedural rules that require 60 votes to send them to their rooms without supper. Since the Democrats abolished said rules, things had been moving smoothly.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:05 AM on March 7


(headdesk)

This debacle is Exhibit A in Why The Progressive Left Has Become A Diminished Presence In US Politics.

You can make all the arguments you want that people deserve a defense, it's not going to change that this particular case has become an absolute tarpit of a mess. And it's become so in large part because of how the activists have treated it. Yes, the GOP was always going to fight anyone who would be put in this post - that's no reason to spot them a bunch of points from the get-go.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:09 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


It's not about the nomination. It's about the fact that, for the first time in living memory, a lawyer has been held responsible for the crimes of those he defended and thereby denied an office in government.
posted by koeselitz at 10:09 AM on March 7 [23 favorites]


NoxAeternum: “You can make all the arguments you want that people deserve a defense, it's not going to change that this particular case has become an absolute tarpit of a mess. And it's become so in large part because of how the activists have treated it. Yes, the GOP was always going to fight anyone who would be put in this post - that's no reason to spot them a bunch of points from the get-go.”

Republicans have never done this before. They have never before en masse argued that a lawyer should be held responsible for the crimes of those he defends. They have not argued that principally because if this were the case they would all be summarily thrown out of office. This is a weird and ill-advised precedent to set, at best.
posted by koeselitz at 10:12 AM on March 7 [16 favorites]


Republicans have never done this before. They have never before en masse argued that a lawyer should be held responsible for the crimes of those he defends.

Worse, as pointed out in my first link, the man in charge of the Supreme Court is "guilty" of the exact same thing and he's, well, the man in charge of the Supreme Court.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:14 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


“When he ran the unit at the Legal Defense Fund, they took positions far outside of the mainstream of the law, far outside existing jurisprudence as it relates to race, and really advanced a fringe agenda,” said J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department civil rights lawyer who has written a book attacking the Justice Department under Obama. “If he attempts to do the same at the Justice Department, it will be a catastrophe.”

Well hey now this seems like a not having defended a cop killer reason for rejecting another of Obama's incompetent appointees.
posted by three blind mice at 10:25 AM on March 7


Adams looks to be a pure right-wing nutter. "Reverse Racism" all the way, that guy. I can't trust a goddamned thing he says regarding social justice if he doesn't understand the basic concepts.
posted by symbioid at 10:30 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


J. Christian Adams' ideas of what are "extreme" and "fringe" are what the rest of us call "basic civil rights law post-1964." He served in the horribly politicized Bush Justice Department in the even more horribly politicized Ashcroft Civil Rights Division, is an advocate for bringing back modern-day poll taxes and other forms of Jim Crow, thought that the New Black Panther Party was engaged in widespread voter intimidation without evidence, and believes white people are being persecuted by The Coloreds.

So, yeah.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:32 AM on March 7 [8 favorites]


three blind mice: Which is the big problem with all these polemics decrying the Democrats over this debacle from the left - they elide over bits of the story that are problematic, like the LDF's takeover of the defense under Adegbile in 2011.

You have to "know yourself" honestly on the field of battle. You can't turn a blind eye to the bad because it doesn't fit your narrative.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:33 AM on March 7


once again: even if you keep your nose down, do what you are told, climb the ladder, etc. the Democratic will absolutely stab you in the back if it looks like you are tainted by the activist left. since the McGovern campaign it's part of the DNA of the modern Democratic party.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:44 AM on March 7 [8 favorites]


It's like this: if someone defended an American citizen who was on trial, they were working for the U.S. Constitution, not for the "bad guy." If you penalize someone for having done so (as many of these Senators are doing) then I can only assume you don't actually believe in the U.S. Constitution.
posted by aught at 10:58 AM on March 7 [13 favorites]


I just. These people. They're trying to create a reality that just doesn't ever work. Why can't they learn?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:00 AM on March 7


I just. These people. They're trying to create a reality that just doesn't ever work. Why can't they learn?

Because for them, this is how reality works.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:01 AM on March 7


No. That's how they want reality to work. They want to make the world regress half a millennium; standing athwart history and all that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:13 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Why can't they learn?

What's there to learn? 9 times out of ten (conservative - heh - estimate), their bullshit works: Democrats curl up into a ball, Moderates/Independents/Centrists shrug and say "Well, I suppose that's bad, but the Democrats aren't any better", and as a result, some hard-won rights get rolled back, the already rich and powerful secure even more wealth and power, and/or they deny a Democratic president something that is routinely and without trouble given to a Republican president.

Being cocks: It works! (TM)
posted by lord_wolf at 11:22 AM on March 7 [4 favorites]


Yeah but why can't they learn that being cocks only actually works short term? The march of history is pretty well inexorably on the path to less cockery. They will lose in the end, and what's more, they know it. They wouldn't be fighting so hard if they didn't.

I have this occasional fever dream where I think we're seeing the last gasp of the far Right around the world. Maybe it'll last through the first term of the next Republican president. And then suddenly all these kids who've grown up in a much more live-and-let-live society, who take basic equality between all people as a fundamental fact of life not to be questioned, they're going to be taking the reins of power. (Justin Trudeau is a great example of this, not to derail into a discussion about him). There are going to be more and more young politicians taking over from the dinosaurs in office now.

And the Right will fight back even harder, and they'll overstep themselves and it will be all over.

Or beanplating I dunno.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:37 AM on March 7


The only silver lining out of this is Obama and Harkin's statements, which is I guess the closest we can get these days to politicians actually calling out their comrades for the pussies they are. What Casey did should only lose him votes and earn him aghast faces from readers of history books twenty years from now. I hope for both.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:58 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


feckless fear mongering, I'm still trying to sort out who/what it is that I pray to, but if it's out there and it's benevolent, I pray to it that you're right and I'm wrong, brother.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:58 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


John Adams must be rolling in his grave.

I think Paul Giamatti can get back into character and record a quick video explaining to the clueless GOP that once upon a time, a man who did this kind of work was elected president of the United States.
posted by ocschwar at 12:15 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]


The other aspect here is that the Fraternal Order of the Police chose to make this nomination an issue. They strongly advocated against this nomination and went so far to make it known that any senator that supported this nomination would be branded as soft on crime and against the police.

The NPR article goes into the FOP angle a bit more.

Apparently Leahy is steamed.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont cried foul, pointing out that no Republicans would work with him to help cops by sending more federal money to buy bullet-proof vests.

"Not a single Republican has joined me in the effort to reauthorize what was a bipartisan piece of legislation that actually saves the lives of police officers," Leahy thundered, "but boy, they will come down here and wax eloquently and misleadingly against this good nominee."

posted by teleri025 at 12:25 PM on March 7 [19 favorites]


You can't turn a blind eye to the bad because it doesn't fit your narrative.

Well, to be fair, all he has is six blind eyes.

Police unions can bully Democrats who are feeling vulnerable into doing what they want; that's why this happened. Also notable that besides Casey and Coons, which were dealing with what is a very hot-button local issue for them, all the others were from extremely white states - Indiana, N. Dakota, W. Virginia, Montana - and one from a state that is only a couple inches shallower than the Deep South (Arkansas).

There are obvious race implications in this story, but it's working only because of general atmosphere where white Americans tend to be trusting of police and prosecutors and distrustful of defense attorneys and suspects. Of course, that didn't stop Roberts, so this vote resulted from a combination of racism and authoritarianism.

Racism and authoritarianism on behalf of the voters, that is. The seven dissenting Democrats' sin here was cowardice. As for the Republicans, they'd probably prefer an aggressive D.A. for the civil rights position.
posted by mellow seas at 12:38 PM on March 7


This is an obvious one.. and about as sad as it gets, sigh... he has one of them names... and he's the color of coffee with double cream... and he's another nominee of that damm Kenyan Muslim radical antichrist.. and for the Democrats who caved... hah.. hope it helps you to get picked in the next softball choose-up, but don't count on it..
posted by anguspodgorny at 12:43 PM on March 7


feckless fecal fear mongering: "The march of history is pretty well inexorably on the path to less cockery."

It's just like Dr. King said: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards less cockery."
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:56 PM on March 7 [6 favorites]


teleri025: The NPR article goes into the FOP angle a bit more.

That's a different piece than the one I recall, or maybe I missed this piece:
Republicans had other objections to Adegbile, mostly centered on the expectation he'd aggressively enforce voting rights laws.
Wow. This is a sharp comment, and one I haven't heard mentioned before. There's also the fact that FOP have a lot of clout with support to candidates in tight races. Also from NPR:
"The criminal defendants that we represent, we represent to vindicate constitutional principles and it's never more important than in capital cases where we're talking about the state exercising the authority to take the life of a human being," [Legal Defense Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill] said.

After all, Ifill said, that never stopped John Roberts from getting confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But sources tell NPR the administration never properly vetted Adegbile's nomination with police groups before it happened. And cops were furious.

Law enforcement turned up the heat and Senate Democrats badly miscalculated the numbers. They labored to check the votes of several Democrats facing close elections this fall but overlooked too many members of their base.
But I really wonder if there's a sharp line drawn for defenders of "cop killers" that the FOP won't cross over and say "the lawyer was doing the job of defending the accused, as they should do."
posted by filthy light thief at 1:11 PM on March 7


filthy light thief: It's more of a combination of the Mumia case being that much of a sticking point for the FOP given the history there, as well as them being sore over the noninterference policy in CO/WA.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:48 PM on March 7


I think it's worth noting that Adegbile didn't even "defend" Mumia. The NLF under Adegbile filed an amicus brief arguing against the constitutionaily of the death sentence, 20 years after the original defense.

If filing merely filing an amicus brief is the same as being a "cop killer" or somehow supportive of "killing cops", then most of the legal establishment who have ever taken a single step outside of corporate transaction work can be tarred with the same thing at some point in thier career, from John Roberts on down.

Republicans had other objections to Adegbile, mostly centered on the expectation he'd aggressively enforce voting rights laws.

This is I think the crux of the Republican opposition, and all the more shameful on the part of the Democratic votes that they (a) didn't see through it and (b) raised such harmful rationale as thier purported reason to vote no. I tend to agree with Serwer's assessment:
Yet Adegbile’s failed nomination wasn’t really just about Abu-Jamal, but a larger conservative attack on the civil rights division – the part of the Justice Department dedicated to enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws. Convinced that anti-black racism is a thing of the past and that federal intervention to secure minority rights does more harm than good, conservatives have waged a years long campaign to dominate, dismantle or discredit the civil rights division and the laws it is designed to enforce.

...

Republicans don’t just oppose Adegbile. They oppose the civil rights division itself.

...
The Abu-Jamal case was merely a convenient foil for conservatives who have long sought to weaken the division and the laws it helps enforce. The story of a black radical murdering a white cop has tremendous emotional and symbolic resonance for those conservatives who have persuaded themselves that the real victims of racial oppression in the Obama era are white people, besieged by a federal government that seeks to unfairly stack the deck in favor of undeserving minorities. Whenever the Obama administration has sought to stand up for voting rights, fight discrimination in hiring, housing or schooling, the right has attacked it as racist.


Republicans actively say racism is a solved problem in America, everyone already has civil rights, the Supreme Court said so. So why do we still have a Civil Right division? As if it wasn't a central part of their larger electoral strategy to suppress Democratic and minority constituencies at the state level to combat adverse demographic trends. A strong strong nominee to Civil Rights could threaten voter suppression gains in North Carolina, Texas and Ohio after Shelby County. Even the 7 DINO Blue Dogs who voted down should have been able to recognize what they're doing, and not gone along with it. Trashing a fundamental legal principal of effecitve representation as the reason is just the peverse cherry on top.
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:49 PM on March 7 [11 favorites]


The takeaway I got from the NPR story yesterday was that this was all about the Fraternal Order of Police, and their influence and dislike of this cop killer defender. Which actually bothers me more than the dog-whistling Republican reasons for the rejection.
posted by Windopaene at 1:53 PM on March 7


I don't think there's much question it's about the players and not the game for many politicians regardless of political affiliation.
And indeed, VERY many partisan folks. I don't know how many people I've talked to about the gun issue and gotten an argument when I'm pretty much for what they're for on restrictions and indeed, go a few yards further. But they don't want to just take the win. It gets personal. 'You people are wrong because...'
And that's where politics has gone. It's gotten so far afield because you can argue something that happened in Florida or California in the middle of Iowa like it has some relevance.
Screw talking about education or those corn subsidies, 'I think the guy who did this in New York is a jerk because...'

You'd think you'd be happy to have someone like Adegbile because he's demonstrated he can perform at such a high level. He can participate in such a high profile case under that kind of pressure and deliver results.
Like saying 'screw John Elway. We don't want him because he scored points for a different team.'

The FOP is another animal altogether. Their job isn't to be reasonable or objective (although they do make the pretense when it serves them). Much like a defense lawyer. Their job is to protect their membership and their interests. Not sure where they think those lay.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, "He has a long record of left wing advocacy marked by ideologically driven positions and very, very poor judgment."

Well, he did hang around with a well known addict.
But it's not like he's going to be one of the joint chiefs of staff, the guy's an NAACP lawyer up for the Civil Rights Division, he's going to be on George Wallace's end of the pool?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:08 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Actually, the LDF did join the defense team in 2011, under his leadership.

And yes, the case was a convenient foil, but it's also an unforced error. Anyone with a basic understanding of the situation knew that the GOP was going to do whatever it took to prevent seating someone in that position. This case just handed them effective leverage in doing so.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:40 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Actually, the LDF did join the defense team in 2011, under his leadership.

You're right, I misunderstood the time line. Still, I think post-conviction defense in a capital case is much different, and more removed from the question of guilt, than sitting at the original defense table. Not that either are in any way legitimate grounds to attack a lawyer's qualifications for a legal appointment.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:34 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Yeah but why can't they learn that 4being cocks only actually works short term?

They're anticipating winning the Senate this fall, and then keeping Obama busy with impeachment proceedings for the next two years. After that, they anticipate winning the presidential election, at which point they'll appoint two or three justices, giving a right-wing lock on the Supreme Court for the next thirty years.

They'll be able to hold back the tide of history for their lifespans, and their childrens' and maybe even their grandchildren's lives. The march of history doesn't matter if none of us will be alive to see it.
posted by happyroach at 3:36 PM on March 7 [4 favorites]


y hallo thar nitemare fuel

:(
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:06 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Debo Adegbile and the Toxic Influence of Big Money
posted by homunculus at 5:49 PM on March 11


Rejection of Obama’s DOJ Nominee Means Trouble for Black Defendants: The Senate’s rejection of Debo Adegbile’s nomination to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division could have a chilling effect on defendants’ access to representation.
posted by homunculus at 5:51 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I agree that voter suppression must play a substantial role here.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:54 AM on March 18


Time Dilation Drug Could Let Heinous Criminals Serve 1,000 Year Sentences
posted by jeffburdges at 5:59 AM on March 20


« Older A montage of famous witches set to Eartha Kitt...  |  A police officer forcibly esco... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments