Senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Debo Adegbile testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 8, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Adegbile has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become the next Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams have penned an op-ed calling for an attorney who represented convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal to be ‘disqualified’ from an appointment to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The opinion article, published by the Wall Street Journal late Monday, focuses on Debo Adegbile, who has been tapped by President Barack Obama to join the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. Adegbile represented Abu-Jamal in 2009 through the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), where he was acting president and director of litigation.
Toomey (R-Pa.) and Williams (D-Philadelphia) said Adegbile did not only act as his attorney, but seized the case and turned "it into a political platform from which to launch an extreme attack on the justice system." They question his ability to run the civil rights division.
"Under Mr. Adegbile's leadership and through rallies, protests and a media campaign, the Legal Defense Fund actively fanned the racial firestorm," the officials wrote. "In a news release issued when it took over as Abu-Jamal's counsel, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) proclaimed that Abu-Jamal was ‘a symbol of the racial injustices of the death penalty.’”
Abu-Jamal’s case has carried on for decades and continues to be a racial flash point. A former member of the Black Panthers, he was convicted of the 1982 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. He is black and Faulkner was white. Abu-Jamal was later sentenced to death – a sentence that was appealed for years.
Adegbile and his legal team represented Abu-Jamal on an appeal based on faulty instructions given to jurors. They had his death sentenced converted to life in prison. This move upset supporters of police and other law enforcement as well as Faulkner’s family.
The officials say Abu-Jamal was well represented prior to LDF’s involvement, adding that their involvement only exacerbated racial issues related to the case.
This week’s opinion piece is the latest protest by both men to the attorney’s appointment, which is set to be reviewed by the U.S. Senate over the next few weeks. The appointment has already been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee’s chairman Sen. Patrick Leahey, D-Vt., said previously the attorney does not “deserve the disparagement” he is enduring.
Asked why Toomey and Williams decided to team up on the piece, a spokeswoman for the senator said he has been outspoken on the issue for some time.
"Senator Toomey teamed up with DA Williams because they agree that this nominee is not suited for the civil rights post at Justice,” E.R. Anderson said. She added that Toomey plans to vote no on the Senate floor.
A request for comment from Williams was not returned by publication.
NBC10.com reached out to Adegbile for comment. Speaking through an LDF representative, he said he is unable to make any statements about his appointment.
White House spokesman Keith Maley declined to speak about the op-ed, but said Adegbile’s qualifications are unquestionable.
“He has a wealth of experience and expertise both inside and outside of government and the respect of colleagues who have worked with him over the years from both sides of the aisle,” he said. “We hope the Senate will act swiftly to confirm him so he can get to work on the vital business of ensuring that every American’s civil and constitutional rights are protected under the law.”