On Wednesday, March 5, the full U.S. Senate failed on a procedural vote to support the nomination of Debo Adegbile to be the next assistant attorney general for civil rights. By a vote of 51 nays to 48 yeas (the vote later became 52 nays to 47 nays, as Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada changed his vote to a nay vote so he could bring the nomination up again at a later time), the Senate failed to invoke cloture, or end debate, on the nomination. – Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau
‘Bullies of Babylon’ by Mumia Abu-Jamal
by Noelle Hanrahan
There is a story that lies behind the Adegbile partisan fight on the Senate floor. If you want to understand why the Republicans are using Adegbile’s association with Mumia Abu-Jamal to try and block his nomination, take a long hard look at “Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary” at www.mumia-themovie.com. This will give you the measure of the man. It chronicles Mumia Abu-Jamal’s evolution as one of the world’s most notable public intellectuals.
Today’s stage is the floor of the U.S. Senate where a cloture vote on Adegible’s nomination takes place in the wake of his clearing the Judiciary Committee. According to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Adegbile’s representation of Mumia Abu-Jamal when he headed the NAACP LDF is reason enough to derail his nomination. The Fraternal Order of Police, Fox News and bipartisan derision from Pennsylvania politicians Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey have fueled the impending drama.
It is a drama where U.S. senators and political pundits regurgitate blatant lies that seek to demonize Mumia because they face zero accountability to the facts. (At www.mumia-themovie.com, see “Manufacturing Guilt,” a short explosive expose of then District Attorney Ed Rendell and prosecutor Joseph McGill’s fabrication and hubris during the case against Mumia Abu-Jamal for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981.)
Just one fact: When Terry Maurer Carter, a court reporter, came forward and swore in an affidavit that Albert Sabo, the original judge, said during the first week of Mumia’s trial, “I am going to help them fry the nigger,” Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe ruled it “irrelevant” and not an indication that the case was racially biased.
The media and congressional pundits deplore the overturning of Mumia’s death sentence and his removal from death row. They repeatedly attribute this result to advocacy lawyers who put forward fabricated tales of racial bias. Come now, really? Racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system and Philadelphia is a fairy tale?
They also conveniently ignore that Mumia’s death sentence was overturned by a court – the U.S. Third Circuit – and that decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, hardly a liberal bastion by any means.
But why is Mumia relevant at all. Why are they concerned whether he lives or dies? What does he represent? Why must he have remained silent. The answer is because what he says and has been saying for over 30 years is relevant.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an internationally acclaimed intellectual. That he has done his work from a Pennsylvania prison cell for over 33 years, 30 of which were spent in solitary on death row, is remarkable. His weekly worldwide radio broadcasts and bestselling books have been translated into nine languages.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an internationally acclaimed intellectual who writes in the tradition of Franz Fanon and Noam Chomsky. That he has done his work from a Pennsylvania prison cell for over 33 years, 30 of which were spent in solitary on death row, is remarkable. His weekly worldwide radio broadcasts and bestselling books have been translated into nine languages.
Nelson Mandela, the European Parliament, Maya Angelou, E.L. Doctorow, Amnesty International, Danielle Mitterrand, Danny Glover and many others have called his trial a miscarriage of justice and lauded his incisive writing.
Abu-Jamal through his radio essays and writing directly challenges the false but convenient “we have realized the dream narrative” that everyone from Time Magazine to Obama is promulgating as we honor Martin Luther King and celebrate Black History Month.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is the conscience of America. And the backlash is swift. The level of vitriol and outright demands for his death and silence reminds one of the terrorist label put on Nelson Mandela for a quarter of a century.
Certain revolutionary ideas were not meant to survive the U.S. state sponsored “program” that targeted Black freedom leaders such as Martin Luther King and ultimately, for the last 50 years, Black life in America.
The “dream” was assassinated whether it is comfortable to admit that or not. Mumia Abu-Jamal survived. And he is one of the many U.S. political prisoners who are the living witnesses to the true struggle to realize the dreams of freedom and justice. The United States government through COINTELPRO and other repressive means has consciously and deliberately attempted to suppress the hopes and dreams of many African Americans. Listen to Mumia Abu-Jamal at www.prisonradio.org.
Noelle Hanrahan, producer of “Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAACP LDF responds to U.S. Senate’s hysterical rejection of Debo Adegbile
I am deeply disappointed that the United States Senate failed to confirm Debo Adegbile for the position of assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice. The Senate voted against cloture (closing debate) on the nomination. We call upon Sen. Reid to bring the nomination of Adegbile before the U.S. Senate again.
As one of the preeminent civil rights lawyers of his generation, Adegbile has committed most of his life’s work to advancing civil rights in America. There is no question that Adegbile is immensely qualified for the position. He is a man of integrity, accomplishment and passionate commitment to civil rights.
Unfortunately, Adegbile has been subjected to an unfair smear campaign. Adegbile was attacked because the NAACP Legal Defense Fund became counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal during his tenure here. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s involvement in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case reflects its institutional commitment to ensuring that the criminal justice system is administered fairly and in compliance with the U.S. Constitution for all Americans, no matter how controversial.
Many public servants, including Chief Justice John Roberts, have donated pro bono time to the representation of death-sentenced prisoners in controversial cases. Ultimately, a federal appeals court agreed with us and ruled twice that the instructions given to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s sentencing jury were incorrect and violated the Constitution. Thus, as explained by the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board, Adegbile “worked for an organization that believes in leaving no stone unturned in seeking justice for all.”
Much of the attention on the nomination has centered on the attacks, rather than the full story of Adegbile’s tremendous contribution to the civil rights movement.
After working in private practice, Adegbile joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), the nation’s leading civil rights law firm and a completely separate entity from the NAACP. At LDF, Adegbile quickly rose to become the director of litigation and later served as acting president and director-counsel and special counsel.
During his 12-year tenure at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Adegbile defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court twice (Shelby County v. Holder and Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder). In addition to being one of the nation’s leading voting rights attorneys, Adegbile also worked on education, employment and criminal justice issues.
During his career, Adegbile has represented voters, students, firefighters, police officers, Hurricane Katrina evacuees, families struggling with foreclosure and victims of domestic violence.
His nomination received widespread and bipartisan support by state attorneys general, prosecutors (including a prosecutor in Zacarias Moussai’s trial), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Supreme Court lawyers and a bipartisan group of members of the bar. Eighty-four civil rights, disability, women’s, LGBT, labor and other organizations jointly submitted a powerful letter in support of his nomination.
Adegible went from facing homelessness as a child to arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Half Irish and half Nigerian, Adegbile was born in New York City and raised by a single mother.
The president of the American Bar Association, James Silkenat, described Adegbile’s work as “consistent with the finest tradition of this country’s legal profession.”
Three NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyers have held this critically important position.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, can be reached via the organization’s page on Facebook.
Statement from President Obama on the Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile
The Senate’s failure to confirm Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice is a travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant. Mr. Adegbile’s qualifications are impeccable. He represents the best of the legal profession, with wide-ranging experience and the deep respect of those with whom he has worked.
His unwavering dedication to protecting every American’s civil and constitutional rights under the law – including voting rights – could not be more important right now. And Mr. Adegbile’s personal story – rising from adversity to become someone who President Bush’s solicitor general referred to as one of the nation’s most capable litigators – is a story that proves what America has been and can be for people who work hard and play by the rules.
As a lawyer, Mr. Adgebile has played by the rules. And now, Washington politics have used the rules against him. The fact that his nomination was defeated solely based on his legal representation of a defendant runs contrary to a fundamental principle of our system of justice – and those who voted against his nomination denied the American people an outstanding public servant.
Statement of Rep. John Lewis
I have personally witnessed Mr. Adegbile’s command of the laws and the power of his advocacy as he argued two pivotal civil rights cases – Shelby County v. Holder and Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No.1 v. Holder – before the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of the Legal Defense Fund. Mr. Adegbile’s fluency with the civil rights issues of today and the impactful work in which he has been centrally involved make him an ideal candidate for this position.
Mr. Adebile’s intelligence, legal acumen, experience and commitment to his craft reflect deeply on his ability to offer the Civil Rights Division outstanding leadership into the future. I strongly urge the Senate to promptly confirm Mr. Adegbile for the position of assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.