That's the title of National Law Journal coverage of the U.S. Senate floor action, which begins extensive coverage and commentary. It's be Todd Ruger.
The Senate today blocked Debo Adegbile's bid to lead the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice amid questions about how he would work with the major law enforcement groups that vigorously opposed his nomination.
Seven Democrats joined Republicans to vote against Adegbile based on the work he and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund did on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in the murder of a Philadelphia police officer more than 30 years ago.
The vote 47-52 vote included a 'no' vote from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a procedural trick that allows him to bring Adegbile's nomination up for another vote in the future. The other Democrats who voted against Adegbile were sens. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Walsh (D-Mont.).
AP coverage is, "Senate blocks Obama's pick for civil rights post," by David Espo. It's via the San Francisco Chronicle.
President Barack Obama's choice to lead the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division was blocked by bipartisan Senate opposition Wednesday in an emotional postscript to the long-ago murder of a Philadelphia policeman and the legal help his killer received.
The vote against advancing Debo Adegbile toward confirmation was 47-52, shy of the majority needed under new procedures Democrats put in place late last year to overcome Republican stalling tactics.
In this case, though, to the dismay of civil rights organizations and the White House, Democratic desertions played a decisive role in the outcome. Eight members of Obama's party joined all 44 Republicans in preventing a final vote.
Obama swiftly condemned the action. In a statement, he called it a "travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant."
"Democrats in Senate Reject Pick by Obama," is by Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear.
The nominee, Debo P. Adegbile, was litigation director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund when it represented Mumia Abu-Jamal on an appeal of his death sentence for killing a Philadelphia police officer decades ago. He could not overcome a campaign by Republicans, conservative activists and law enforcement organizations still infuriated by the murder of the officer, Daniel Faulkner.
But it was the votes of seven Democratic senators to reject Mr. Adegbile that doomed the nomination despite what White House officials described as a sustained closed-door effort by Mr. Obama and his top aides to save it. The president personally appealed to Senate Democrats at a recent caucus meeting and made several calls to Democratic senators in the last week, officials said. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, continued making calls Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
The Washington Post reports, "Senate rejects Obama appointment of Debo Adegbile to top civil rights post," by Wesley Lowery and Ed O'Keefe.
The vote was expected to be close -- with Vice President Biden on hand to potentially cast a tie-breaking vote -- but the final tally was 47-52 in opposition to the appointment.
In total, eight Democrats voted against confirmation in the final tally. Initially, seven Democrats voted against confirmation and Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) -- who initially voted in favor of confirmation -- later switched his vote to no, giving him the right as Senate leader to bring up the nomination again at a later date.
Adegbile becomes the first Obama nominee rejected under the new Senate procedures approved in November that require just a majority of senators present to agree to proceed to a vote on most presidential nominees.
"Guilt by Association," is by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate.
Adegbile’s cardinal sin? He worked on a Legal Defense Fund appeal (that the NAACP had already been involved in before he took the position) contending that there was racial discrimination in Abu-Jamal’s trial and then, later, on a brief arguing that the jury instructions in Abu-Jamal’s trial were constitutionally improper. This was a contention that prevailed in a federal appeals court. Later the LDF represented Abu-Jamal in a Supreme Court case when prosecutors sought to reinstate his death sentence.
To be clear, then: Adegbile was not himself a cop-killer. He didn’t help a cop-killer get off and roam free with false claims of innocence. What he did do—which fits pretty readily within the historic mandate of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund—was to help ensure that the American criminal justice system, and especially the death penalty, is administered fairly and constitutionally. As a representative of an organization that is institutionally dedicated to ensuring that justice is administered fairly, he fought for fairness and (totally unfair!) judges agreed that unfairness occurred.
Once upon a time in America this was called advocating for justice. But in today’s America, it’s deemed a miscarriage of justice. And so the fact that Adegbile has long been one of the most skilled and principled civil rights attorneys in the country is cast by Senate Republicans as a kind of catastrophic public scam. (Disclosure: I have met Adegbile several times and have sat on several panels with him.) The right-wing smear squad raced to label Adegbile a "cop-killer’s coddler," or a “pro-criminal cop-killer.” Not unrelatedly, his other sin? Adegbile argued the Voting Rights cases at the Supreme Court, the ones making the radical argument that racial bias still exists in some voting schemes. I guess legal advocacy is just always wrong if it’s done by the NAACP.
The Atlantic posts, "2014: Senate Race Baiting Sinks a Nomination for Civil-Rights Chief," by Andrew Cohen.
Anyone you represent can and will be used against you: The Adegbile vote also reveals that it is now acceptable in politics to blame a lawyer for the clients he represented in the past—not just the clients he represented personally, but also those that his organization had long represented before the lawyer joined up. And not just in a hopeless case in which frivolous claims are made, but in a close case in which a conservative federal appeals court ultimately endorses the lawyer's views.
The most significant opposition to Adegbile's nomination came in response to his participation in the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's representation of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the man convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. Adegbile did not represent the defendant at trial. He did not declare his client to be innocent. Instead, he worked on a series of briefs supporting an appeal that made a legitimate legal argument. He did, in other words, precisely what he was expected to do on behalf of an organization dedicated to civil rights. For this he was deemed unfit to run the Civil Rights Division.
Cohen also posts, "What John Roberts Can Say About the Rule of Law and Debo Adegbile."
One of the worst parts of this story is how easily it will transcend this vote and this candidate. When the Senate starts judging nominees based on their past representation of certain clients, when attorneys who want to become public servants are held responsible for the conduct of those clients, and when guilt by association is raised to the level of public policy, it will have a chilling effect on the legal profession. Fearful of being "Debo-ized," lawyers will balk when asked to take on particularly unpopular cases.
Late Wednesday, Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, took to the floor of the chamber to make this very point—and to do so in a way that I think is historic. Every lawyer, law student, law professor, and everyone who cares about the rule of law and the right to counsel, ought to watch this video:
John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, deserves praise for his long-ago representation of serial killer John Ferguson. It is what lawyers do. Obviously, it's not the chief justice's fault that he was not questioned at length about it during either of his confirmation hearings. Such questioning, as Harkin said, would have been as inappropriate as it was in Adegbile's case. But it will be the chief justice's fault if he remains silent now that the Adegbile vote has been taken and the extent of the problem has been made clear.
"Conservatives Score a Big Win in their Long War Against the Civil Rights Division," by Sam Kleiner at New Republic.
After the Boston Massacre in 1770, attorney John Adams decided to defend the soldiers who had slaughtered his fellow Bostonians. His decision to defend the soldiers was unpopular, and he lost over half of his clients. Reflecting on his career after he had gone on to serve as President, he called his defense of the soldiers “one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”
The Senate’s rejection yesterday of President Obama’s nominee for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Debo Adegbile, would have Adams turning over in his grave. Adegbile was subject to spurious Republican attacks because he had served as Legal Counsel to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and participated in the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who had been convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. Adegbile’s only participation in the case had been to file a 2009 motion claiming that Jamal had faced a discriminatory jury. For Republicans, with the assistance of a slew of swing-state Democrats, that was enough to reject his nomination. Adegbile’s stellar legal career, which included two appearances before the Supreme Court defending the Voting Rights Act, were swept aside. In right-wing media he became a “cop-killer advocate.”
Earlier coverage of Debo Adegbile's nomination begins at the link.