President Barack Obama Has Appointed A Zealous And Competent Civil Rights Lawyer To the U.S. Commission On Civil Rights, And There Isn’t A Thing Wrong With That.

Perry Mason would have defended Mumia Abu-Jamal...

Perry Mason would have defended Mumia Abu-Jamal…

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.

10 thoughts on “President Barack Obama Has Appointed A Zealous And Competent Civil Rights Lawyer To the U.S. Commission On Civil Rights, And There Isn’t A Thing Wrong With That.

  1. There was a T.V. series on a long time ago, long enough that I don’t remember the name or who starred in t (I think a very young Judd Hirsch, but don’t hold me to that) in which the star got an obviously guilty (in the show) guy off by positing another possible scenario for the crime (murder), The client turned to him after the acquittal and asked “Don’t you want to know if I really killed her?” The lawyer replied “I don’t care. You deserved and got the best defense I could give you. You’re free to go. Do so.” Then he gathered his stuff and walked out. My feeling about lawyers changed at that point, and I have respected them and their job ever since.

    • The show was “The Law,” a mini-series following a TV movie, also starring Judd. Law students loved it. I loved it because it began with “The Mikado” song, “My Object All Sublime.”

  2. You wrote: “The current nomination, which does not require Senate approval, is being described as a parting “poke in the eye” by Obama.” Considering the wreck that is our political system could it be that making a “competent appointment to the Civil Rights Commission” is a poke in the eye?

      • Considering he got shot down by the Senate earlier, I’d say it’s a “screw you, I’m going to give this guy something anyway, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Competent or not, Obama, petty, small-minded, vengeful jerk that he is, was going to get his digs in before moving day.

        • If the guy is qualified, he’s qualified, and he’s qualified. Why is fixing a previous injustice by the Senate based on ignorance about what lawyers do necessarily vengeance or small-mindedness? His duty is to appoint the best people for jobs, not the best people whose appointments won’t be accused of being vengeful.

          Obama has made what sure looked like petty, in-your-face appointments in the past, notably Susan Rice. Hillary’s immediate hiring of Debby Wasserman Schultz was also intentional defiance—how did that work out for you, Hill?—but making that assumption here is unfair.

  3. I expect his appointment will be shortlived. The Trump administration has stated that one of their top priorities is to change the rules so that all such appointees by previous administrations can be replaced.

    As well as permanent appointees in government service in general.

    They’ll need to do this if the new VP, who is associated with the FRC, and the several members of the new cabinet actually members of the FRC, are to carry out the purge of LGBTI people and their supporters from government service, starting with the State Department, that the FRC is demanding.

    To carry out this extreme agenda, the Obama administration has systematically filled the ranks of State with LGBTQ and abortion activists. Unless the next secretary of state is willing to resist and remove this embedded agenda, the promotion and protection of true human rights, like religious liberty, will continue to languish….

    The incoming administration needs to make clear that these liberal policies will be reversed and the “activists” within the State Department promoting them will be ferreted out and will be replaced by conservatives who will ensure the State Department focuses on true international human rights like religious liberty which is under unprecedented assault.

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