President Barack Obama has appointed Debo Adegbile, who had served as an former attorney for convicted controversial police-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, to a six-year post on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The eight-member commission consists of four members appointed by the president and four appointed by Congress.
Adegbile worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund when he represented Abu-Jamal in the appeal of his conviction and death sentence for the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal’s sentence was reduced to life in prison. Predictably, rightish-commentators and of course police groups are highly critical of the appointment, just as they were in 2014 when they and others convinced the Senate to reject Obama’s nomination of Adegbile to lead the Justice Department’s Office on Civil Rights. Ethics Alarms noted then, in the post, The Right’s Unethical, Ignorant, Un-American And Dangerous Attack On Debo Adegbile,
“It says nothing of Debo Adegbile’s fitness as a public servant that he represented a convicted cop killer, a cannibal, Son of Sam, Spiro Agnew or Willie Sutton. It simply says that he is a lawyer, and one who embraces the traditional ethics and aspirations of the profession. Abraham Lincoln won fame getting an acquittal for a friend whom Lincoln knew was guilty of murder, but the prosecution didn’t have the evidence to prove it. Good. Does this mean he was pro-murder? Clarence Darrow used his extraordinary persuasive power to stop over a hundred men accused of murder—most of them guilty, some of them certifiable monsters— from being executed. Good. They were citizens, they had as much a right to use the laws that offered them protection as the government had to use other laws to threaten their lives and freedom. Was Darrow a fan of killers? No, he was fan of making sure ordinary people weren’t crushed by laws and systems they could never understand, use or survive without the help of a lawyer, in his case, the greatest lawyer of them all…. The principle [critics of Adegbile’s defense of Abu-Jamal] are advocating… is a sinister one, where lawyers rather than judges or juries pass premature judgment on the claims and needs of citizens, and withhold competent access to legal remedies according the their personal assessments regarding the validity of a citizen’s motives. This, of course, gives unacceptable power to lawyers, making it their choice who gets the protections of our justice system and who does not. The danger of this contention cannot be understated….let’s remind all the conservatives using this irresponsible tactic where it leads. It leads directly to citizens being slaves to their own nations’ laws, because they can’t possibly access them on their own, with lawyers deciding who is worthy of being able to take advantage of our “inalienable” rights, and who has the “privilege” of legal representation.”
The current nomination, which does not require Senate approval, is being described as a parting “poke in the eye” by Obama. No, it is a competent appointment to the Civil Rights Commission, nothing more, nothing less. Ironically, it is Obama’s other nomination to the Commission that is atrocious: Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Education Department, who wrote the infamous “Dear Colleague” letter to colleges advising them to lower their standards for judging students accused of sexual harassment or risk government intervention.