Reid Remarks On Republican Obstruction Of Adegbile Nomination

“Debo Adegbile… is a man who renews my faith in the American Dream… As one of the nation’s foremost civil rights attorneys, he is eminently qualified to lead the office that enforces federal laws prohibiting every type of discrimination – including discriminatory voting practices.”

“Mr. Adegbile actually specializes in voting rights issues. He was working diligently to safeguard the right of every American to cast a ballot without discrimination or intimidation.”

“Debo Adegbile has consistently stood up for that Constitutional right [to legal counsel] – as well as Americans’ fundamental right to participate in our democracy. He is exceptionally qualified for the job to which he is nominated. And while my Republican colleagues have used his defense of the Constitution as a political weapon against him, I believe this nominee deserves to be judged on the body of his work and the admirable quality of his character.”

 

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the qualifications of Debo Adegbile. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, is a man who renews my faith in the American Dream. The nominee is the son of Irish and Nigerian immigrants. He grew up in poverty. Sometimes he and his mother were even homeless.

But despite these challenges, he worked his way to the top of the legal profession. The nominee graduated from NYU law school and later became the Litigation Director at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.  He argued two of the most important civil rights cases of his generation before the United States Supreme Court. He has received numerous awards for legal prowess and his commitment to civil rights. And as one of the nation’s foremost civil rights attorneys, he is eminently qualified to lead the office that enforces federal laws prohibiting every type of discrimination – including discriminatory voting practices.

But despite all this nominee has achieved, Republicans have not given this good man a fair shot at confirmation.

During Mr. Adegbile’s time at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the association assisted with an appeal for a man convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer 25 years earlier – when Mr. Adegbile was just a teenager. And although the condemned man was undoubtedly a very bad man, a man who had committed a heinous crime, his death sentence was ultimately overturned on the grounds that the jury had been given improper – and unconstitutional – instructions.

In 2011 the defendant was re-sentenced to life in prison without parole. But we should not engage in guilt by association.

Even the Philadelphia Inquirer, the hometown newspaper of the police officer who was so tragically slain, said, “It would be hard to find a better candidate for the position… To argue that [the nominee], one of the country’s foremost legal scholars – especially when it comes to civil rights law – should be disqualified from the Justice post because he participated in [these] appeals is an affront to what it means to live in America. This country allows every convict to exhaustively appeal a verdict, even when all the prior evidence appears to have assured his guilt.”

I had an opportunity to meet with Mr. Adegbile. He has devoted his life to public service. And I believe that Republicans have distorted this good man’s record in an attempt to score political points and block confirmation of a faithful defender of voting rights.

While the nominee was Litigation Director for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the organization stood up for the constitutional right of every American to a fair trial – regardless of the nature of their crime or the content of their character. But they also advanced the causes of voting rights, civic engagement, economic opportunity, education, health care and freedom from discrimination for all Americans. And, in fact, Mr. Adegbile actually specializes in voting rights issues. He was working diligently to safeguard the right of every American to cast a ballot without discrimination or intimidation when the Legal Defense Fund got involved in the Philadelphia case.

Although Mr. Adegbile didn’t make the decision to represent the Philadelphia defendant – nor did he appear in court or even author a brief on the case – Republicans have attempted to paint him as sympathetic to the convict. The truth is many lawyers represent unpopular clients at some point in their careers.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts himself provided pro bono assistance to the defense of a prisoner on Florida’s death row, who was convicted of killing eight people. As Chief Justice Roberts has said, advocacy on behalf of a client is not about overturning the rule of law, but about vindicating the rule of law.

This nominee has the strong support of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP and a host of other groups and organizations. And the president of the American Bar Association, James Silkenat, wrote the Judiciary Committee to say he was, “alarmed to learn … [about] opposition to [his] nomination based solely on his efforts to protect the fundamental rights of an unpopular client.” Mr. Silkenat wrote: “A fundamental tenet of our justice system and our Constitution is that anyone who faces loss of liberty has a right to legal counsel… [even] those accused or convicted of terrible crimes.”Debo Adegbile has consistently stood up for that Constitutional right – as well as Americans’ fundamental right to participate in our democracy. He is exceptionally qualified for the job to which he is nominated. And while my Republican colleagues have used his defense of the Constitution as a political weapon against him, I believe this nominee deserves to be judged on the body of his work and the admirable quality of his character.