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Toomey & Casey Oppose President Obama’s Nominee

Casey-ToomeySenator Bob Casey declared that he intends to vote against President Obama’s choice to head the Civil Rights Division, potentially imperilling the nomination.

Debo Adegbile, who worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 2001 to 2013, was nominated by the Obama Administration to serve in the Department of Justice and led the Civil Rights Division. He is currently a senior counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Adegbile has faced Republican opposition, however, because of a NAACP brief in 2009 that sought to overturn the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The NAACP argued improper safeguards were taken to prevent racial discrimination during jury selection. Eventually, Abu-Jamal’s death sentence was struck down though he remains imprisoned without the possibility of parole.

While the NAACP’s action was routine, Abu-Jamal’s case has been anything but. Abu-Jamal was a social activist during the 1960’s and 1970’s whose murder of a white police officer, Daniel Faulkner, in 1981 galvanized racial tensions in Philadelphia. After his conviction, Abu-Jamal became even more outspoken writing a book, newspaper columns, and even a radio show from his prison cell.

To Philadelphians of a certain age the thirty-year old case still has resonance. Thus was the tempest Bob Casey stepped into this weekend.

“I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime,” Casey said in a statement issued Friday. “At the same time, it is important that we ensure that Pennsylvanians and citizens across the country have full confidence in their public representatives – both elected and appointed.”

“The vicious murder of Officer Faulkner in the line of duty and the events that followed in the 30 years since his death have left open wounds for Maureen Faulkner and her family as well as the City of Philadelphia. After carefully considering this nomination and having met with both Mr. Adegbile as well as the Fraternal Order of Police, I will not vote to confirm the nominee.”

Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic Philadelphia DA Seth Williams wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling for the nomination to be withdrawn.

“It is disturbing that Debo Adegbile—a man with impressive credentials but an unconscionable record in the Abu-Jamal case—is poised to become the next assistant attorney general to lead this division,” they wrote.

Toomey held a conference call with reporters on Monday to further lay out his rationale for opposing Adegbile’s nomination, referring to him as one of the “extremist, radical” people seeking to defend Abu-Jamal. Toomey also repeatedly mentioned Casey’s opposition.

“I hope that he will not be confirmed,” Toomey said of Adegbile. “He faces bipartisan opposition. I appreciate the fact Bob Casey came out against the confirmation. He is a very, very poor choice to run the Civil Rights Division.”

Adegbile only needs 51 votes for confirmation but the loss of Casey, who has a long history with the President that includes endorsing him over Hillary Clinton in 2008, may signal the defection of more Democrats and the ultimate rejection of Adegbile’s nomination.

This is not the first time Abu-Jamal has turned into a political football. In 2006, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and then-Sen. Rick Santorum each introduced congressional resolutions condemning the naming of a street after Abu-Jamal in Paris.

12 Responses

  1. TIP of the day. If you decide to waste your time and effort in an attempt to reach any Pa state representative, be it a state Senator or district rep and get a reply at all it will be from some wanna be who got a job with his or her rep and they have not a clue about anything except what’s for lunch! This applies to both parties as neither is interested in anything other than getting re-elected.

  2. Can’t wait to see both of these slackers gone. Problem is PA will get two more do nothing slackers. Not one responsible Senator in this state in any district. SHAME!

  3. Patrick, I’m sorry to be the grammar police, but this is really bugging me. The phrase is “would’ve” or “would have.” There’s no such thing as “would of.”

  4. Come on, Doug. Don’t frame this as a case of some low-level worker in the Public Defender’s office merely doing his job defending an accused murder back in 1982. At Adegbile’s direction, the NAACP more recently took the proactive step to spearhead Abu-Jamal’s final unsuccessful appeal of his conviction (not the sentence, which had been corrected). He did so despite the fact that Abu-Jamal, possibly the world’s most famous criminal appellant, already had adequate legal representation for nearly three decades. 

    Of the dozens of state and federal judges who considered Abu-Jamal’s numerous appeals before Adegbile got involved, not a single one indicated that the facts of the case suggested improper conviction. Granted, there were disagreements at the appellate level on procedure, application of case law and what not. But again, no suggestions of an improper conviction. Despite this, Adegbile took it upon himself to jump in and take this all the way to the Supreme Court trying to get Abu-Jamal released from prison. Even the liberal justices didn’t want to hear his argument.

    Adegbile was well within his rights to take this action. But Toomey, Casey, the victim’s family and others are similarly within their rights to oppose Adegbile’s nomination. They have a legitimate argument but are already being branded as racists – the same fate unfairly suffered by the endless line judges who ruled against Abu-Jamal over the years.

  5. So if attorney Adegbile had just gone through the motions or chickened out of the case entirely instead of fighting vigorously for his client, he would be considered worthy of leading the Civil Rights Division. I wonder how Sen. Casey would feel if someone dug up some issue of conscience that the senator stood behind 30 years ago in order to discredit him today. He needs backbone surgery.

  6. Idiots! Since when is it not proper for an attorney to represent a client to the best of his or her ability and regardless of the guilt or innocence of the client??that is the entire basis of our system of law!

  7. Patrick, Obama can only pardon federal prisoners, not state prisoners. Mumia will rot in prison until the end of his natural life.

  8. Nick, MAJ’s death sentence was vacated because of faulty jury instructions relating to the consideration of mitigating circumstances, not racial bias in jury instructions. Your post is a bit misleading.

  9. Well I guess Harry Reid has more than enough votes to get Adegbile’s nomination to pass. Do you think Bobby could of waited any longer to make this decision?? I hope FOP Lodge 5 are happy with their endorsements of Obama and Casey. You get what you vote for fellas…
    If Obama would of lost in 2012 Mumia would of been pardoned on 1/19/13. Mumia will now have to wait until January 2017 until Obama sets him free.

  • Understanding that basic education funding should/will be first, what should be the next highest priority for the General Assembly?

    • Raising The Minimum Wage (25%)
    • Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana (24%)
    • None of the above. Something Else. (20%)
    • Economic Development (14%)
    • Higher Education (8%)
    • Public Transportation (8%)
    • Workforce Opportunities and Innovation (2%)

    Total Voters: 51

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