Obama Civil Rights Nominee Defended Convicted Cop-Killer, Opposed Ballot Safety Measures

Radical Selection Shows Need for Filibuster Protections, Black Conservatives Say

Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama’s controversial nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights office is being criticized by members of the Project 21 black leadership network. Adegbile’s radical resume, Project 21 legal and policy experts say, places him far outside of the mainstream and presents an extremely risky choice for a position with tremendous influence over important issues such as immigration and voter protection.

“With the Adegbile nomination, President Obama is once again pushing a divisive agenda,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a former professor of constitutional law and former congressional leadership staffer. “Selecting Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division reveals this administration’s hostility to racial equality and the rule of law. The President promised us his administration would be post-racial. This appointment — and others like it — show instead that his presidency is the most racial.”

Adegbile was nominated for the post of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights to replace Tom Perez, who became Secretary of Labor last year in an exclusively partisan vote. Adegbile previously served as the acting president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. He also litigated privately and most recently served as senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. His nomination is enthusiastically supported by a coalition of over 75 left-wing special interest groups that include the National Center for Transgender Equality, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the National Immigration Law Center.

Among others, the Fraternal Order of Police is prominent and vocal in opposing the Adegbile nomination because, under Adegbile’s leadership, the NAACP defended convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. In 2009, Adegbile and other NAACP lawyers filed a legal brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on Abu-Jamal’s behalf in an effort to overturn his conviction. The group later represented Abu-Jamal directly to prevent the reinstatement of the death penalty in his case.

Fraternal Order of Police National President Chuck Canterbury wrote in a January 6 letter to President Obama:

There is no disputing that Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered by [Mumia Abu-Jamal]. His just sentence — death — was undone by your nominee and others like him who turned the justice system on its head with unfounded and unproven allegations of racism… This nomination can be interpreted in only one way: it is a thumb in the eye of our nation’s law enforcement officers. It demonstrates a total lack of regard or empathy for those who strive to keep you and everyone else in out nation safe in your homes and neighborhoods — sometime giving their lives in the effort.

“Of all the left-wing lawyers in America, couldn’t Obama have appointed one whose client list did not include unrepentant cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal?” asked Project 21 Deroy Murdock, a nationally-syndicated columnist. “It is unrealistic to expect a hardened liberal such as Obama to nominate a Federalist Society member to the Justice Department. However, it should not be asking too much for Obama at least to avoid nominating someone with a dead police officer’s blood on his briefcase.”

During his confirmation hearing last week, Adegbile also refused to definitively answer if he believes, as Attorney General Eric Holder has suggested, that illegal immigrants have a “civil right to citizenship in America.” Asked his opinion on this on two occasions by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Adegbile claimed no previous knowledge of Holder’s apparent position and only said he would provide “fidelity” to existing law and would enforce future legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President.

Project 21’s Peter Kirsanow, as a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, declared that any attempt to tie amnesty for illegal immigrants to civil rights is “incoherent.”

In the matter of voting rights, a key issue addressed by the division Adegbile is now nominated to lead, Adegbile unsuccessfully argued against voter protections before the U.S. Supreme Court last year in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, the Court overturned the outdated formula in the Voting Rights Act that held certain states and localities to unfair “preclearance” election standards. Project 21 filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby County case that favored reforming the Voting Rights Act to more readily allow states to protect ballot integrity.

Due to recent moves by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to restrict minority rights in the U.S. Senate and essentially abolish the filibuster of presidential nominations, Adegbile’s confirmation may be a near certainty. He has had a confirmation hearing, but the Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to vote on the nomination. The prospect of Adegbile being confirmed on a strictly-partisan vote, like his predecessor’s promotion, is a distinct possibility.

“Unfortunately, Debo Adegbile’s nomination and possible confirmation is an example of the type of nominee we can now expect in the Obama Administration. One could argue that these radical nominees are only able to be confirmed, but for the Senate’s recently implemented ‘nuclear option’ rule on filibusters. As a former senior counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, my portfolio included judicial nominations and Justice Department nominees requiring Senate confirmation. The Republican-controlled majority of a decade ago had the same option, but chose not to pursue it for fear of altering the way the Senate conducts business,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Cherylyn Harley LeBon. “Sadly, Harry Reid’s rule change will likely bring us a nominee outside of the mainstream and with enormous power to influence critical civil rights rules and regulations.”

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).


Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.