Obama Taps Top Voting Rights Lawyer to Lead DOJ Civil Rights Division

Attorney who defended the Voting Rights Act bill before the Supreme Court gets nod to head Civil Rights department.

By Brentin Mock Nov 15, 2013

President Obama has nominated Debo Adegbile, senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, to take over as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The former head of that division, Thomas Perez, is now Secretary of the Department of Labor. While Adegbile served as an attorney for the Senate Judiciary, working primarily on crafting a new Voting Rights Act bill, he’s more popularly known as the lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund who argued on behalf of preserving the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court. Adegbile defended it twice before the high court, successfully helping to protect it when it was challenged in 2006, and again this past February before Chief Roberts’ court gutted the landmark civil rights bill. Adegbile also represented Hurricane Katrina evacuees in a federal voting rights lawsuit shortly after the storm.  

"Our country needs someone like Debo with significant experience in voting rights to protect the deeply held American value that each person has the right to a voice in our democracy," said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP LDF. "Debo has precisely the type of broad civil rights experience that is required at this pivotal moment in our country."

If Adegbile is confirmed to serve as the Justice Department Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, he will lead in enforcing the remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, along with those of the Civil Rights Act to protect people of color and other protected classes from discrimination.

Adegbile is the son of parents who immigrated to America from Ireland and Nigeria. As a child he coped with poverty and homelessnes before working his way through law school by way of loans, various jobs and scholarships. He is now considered one of the premiere civil rights attorneys in America.