Nominee for civil rights post is rejected

Debo Adegbile in 2009.
Alex Brandon/AP
Debo Adegbile in 2009.

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s choice to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was blocked by bipartisan Senate opposition Wednesday in an emotional postscript to the long-ago murder of a Philadelphia policeman and the legal help his killer, Mumia Abu-Jamal, received.

The vote against advancing Debo Adegbile toward confirmation was 47-52, shy of the simple majority needed under new procedures Democrats put in place late last year to overcome Republican stalling tactics.

Eight members of Obama’s party joined all 44 Republicans in preventing a final vote.


Obama swiftly condemned the action. In a statement, he called it a ‘‘travesty based on wildly unfair character attacks against a good and qualified public servant.’’

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Adegbile, a longtime official at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was praised by supporters for his legal skills.

But Republicans said Adegbile’s connection with the legal case of Abu-Jamal disqualified him from holding high public office.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf in 2006 and Adegbile represented him beginning in 2011, near the end of a 30-year legal struggle that resulted in a lifetime prison sentence.