Debo Adegbile Faces Senate For Justice Department Civil Rights Post

Civil rights attorney Debo Adegbile goes up against Senate conservatives today who may grill him about representing Mumia Abu Jamal

By Brentin Mock Jan 08, 2014

Debo Adegbile, the former NAACP LDF attorney who defended the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer, will sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning (Can be viewed online at 10 a.m.) to take questions about his ability to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. His support from the social justice advocacy community is strong going in: Yesterday, 75 civil rights organizations joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a letter to the Senate committee urging them to confirm him. 

From the letter:

"Mr. Adegbile is exceptionally qualified to lead the Civil Rights Division at this time in history.  As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer on civil rights issues, he would bring a depth and breadth of understanding of federal civil rights laws, and their enforcement and application.  He has litigated cases across civil rights subject areas, from voting rights to fair housing to employment discrimination to equal educational opportunity. He has practiced law at all levels, from the trial court to the Supreme Court, and has appeared in courts throughout the country."

While the confirmation process has been made smoother by new rules that call for a simple majority vote (51 ayes) in the Senate for approval, as opposed to the 60-aye hurdle previously needed, Adegbile is certain to face opposition from conservative Senators. Some on the right are making hay out of the fact that Adegbile represented former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981. But civil rights advocates who’ve worked with Adegbile for years are making the case that he represents the American story, having overcome poverty and homelessness as a child to become one of the top lawyers in the country. It doesn’t hurt that Adegbile began touching kids’ hearts when he had a reoccurring role as one of the children on "Sesame Street."

Adegbile continues to work in schools from junior high to college as a mentor and teacher on constitutional law and civics.  

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement said in a statement, "I have litigated both with and against Debo and have heard him argue in the Supreme Court. I have always found him to be a formidable advocate of the highest intellect, skills and integrity."