Senate Panel Approves Nomination of Debo Adegbile to Justice Dept. Post

The longtime civil rights lawyer and advocate was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to be head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Posted: 02/07/2014 05:45 PM EST

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday approved the nomination of Debo Adegbile as the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The nomination by President Obama of Adegbile, a longtime lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was met with some controversy because of his representation of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted for killing a police officer in Philadelphia.

Adegbile, who is widely viewed as a leading civil rights attorney and advocate, was initially nominated in November and was nominated again for the position this year. He left the Legal Defense Fund and went to work as a senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along strict party lines by a vote of 10 to 8. That is an indication that he will be approved by the full Senate, barring opposition from Democrats. Under Senate rules approved recently, the Republican members will be unable to prevent a vote because of a filibuster.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said that opposition against the nomination was unwarranted because it was not Adegbile’s decision to represent Abu-Jamal, adding that all Americans are entitled to being defended by a lawyer.

“The principle that all sides deserve competent and effective counsel is at the bedrock of our constitutional system,” Leahy said.

Many political experts say that the prospects of Adegbile's approval by the full Senate look promising.

“I think that, at this point, the battle lines have been drawn and people who have reached conclusions about Mumia Abu-Jamal won’t be swayed one way or another,” said Michael Fauntroy, a professor of political science at Howard University, speaking with BET.com.

“There are Republicans who might want to use this to derail a well-qualified candidate,” he said. “But it seems that Debo Adegbile is in good shape to be approved by the full Senate, unless the Republicans have something unexpected up their sleeves.”

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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