WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 5, 2014) — Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the statement below following the Senate filibuster of Debo Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice:
“Today’s vote demonstrated the worst elements of our political system. Unhinged rhetoric trumped substance, racialized language triumphed over thoughtful discourse, and our legal and political system will pay the price.
We applaud President Obama for nominating Debo Adegbile, one of the pre-eminent civil rights litigators of his generation. Adegbile’s experience defending the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court twice puts him in a class of his own when it comes to understanding the application and enforcement of complex civil rights issues.
Add that to his stellar career and bipartisan endorsements from corporate attorneys, former government officials like Paul Clement, civil rights groups, and state attorneys general, and it becomes even clearer that Adegbile is eminently qualified to serve as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
It’s hypocritical for Senators to claim to support civil rights enforcement and then turn their backs on our communities by voting against the consideration this nominee on his merits.
This filibuster shows a hypocritical double standard. During the course of their long careers, both John Roberts and Debo Adegbile each performed a vital constitutional service by representing an unpopular client on death row. Roberts is now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but opponents of the Adegbile nomination twisted reality and resorted to some of the dirtiest attacks I’ve seen in my professional career. Instead of extolling his admirable record of service, as the American Bar Association did, extremists turned this family man into a ‘cop-killer defender’ and a buffoonish racialized caricature.
We are deeply concerned about the complicit behavior of the mainstream and right-wing media who allowed this rhetoric to go largely unchecked. Our broad coalition was unanimous and vocal in our unwavering support for this nominee. We published numerous op-eds, letters, and statements and held several press events at every juncture of this nomination. Yet many of the stories about Adegbile’s nomination focused on one client and spoke little of his broad support or remarkable qualifications.
Today’s filibuster should concern every person who cares about our justice system. Every person deserves adequate legal representation. Our system won’t work if talented attorneys refuse to represent unpopular clients. And eminently qualified public servants may think twice before accepting a nomination for federal office.
Today indeed is a shameful day in our democracy. We urge Majority Leader Reid to call a vote on this nomination once again.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.