Senate’s rejection of DOJ pick disappoints advocates

Photo of Debo Adegbile speaking in front of a building with columns.
Debo Adegbile, from MSNBC

The U.S. Senate, by a 52-47 vote on March 5, blocked President Obama’s pick to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, who had the strong backing of disability rights advocates.

“Mr. Adegbile would be an exceptional individual to carry on recent groundbreaking work by the Civil Rights Division in advancing the integration of people with disabilities in employment and community settings,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, in a news release. “His history of principled and measured approach to civil rights issues and skill both inside and outside the courtroom would be a huge benefit to people with disabilities.

“Yesterday’s vote was a disappointment. We hope that the Senate will reconsider its vote on this well-qualified individual in the near future.”

Adegbile, 47, spent more than a decade working primarily on voting rights issues for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

His nomination was heavily criticized by Republicans due to his participation in a death penalty case regarding Mumia Abu-Jamal, an internationally-known prisoner convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, according to the Washington Post.

In a surprising rebuke to President Obama, eight Democrats joined all Republicans to vote against Adegbile’s nomination. Adegbile was also the first Obama nominee rejected under the new Senate procedures approved in November, which require agreement from just a majority of senators for votes on most presidential nominees.

In a letter sent Jan. 7 to the U.S. Senate, more than 75 civil rights organizations praised Obama’s nomination of Adegbile. Among the organizations that signed the letter were NRDN, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and the National Council on Independent Living.

“Mr. Adegbile is one of the preeminent civil rights litigators of his generation,” the letter stated. “He is also a consensus builder. Mr. Adegbile has earned respect and admiration from a bipartisan set of colleagues, lawyers, and leaders, including former Solicitors General Paul Clement and Drew Days, because of his principled and measured approach to issues.”

Disability Rights Washington, publisher of disAbility Rights Galaxy, is a member of the National Disability Rights Network, NDRN.