The White House is officially in search of another nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division after formally withdrawing the nomination of Debo Adegbile. Adegbile’s confirmation was shot down in March after senators objected to legal work he did with the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.
During his time working for the NAACP, Adegbile worked on a team that defended Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia man convicted of killing a police officer in 1981. Abu-Jamal was spared the death penalty because an appeals court ruled that instructions given by the trial judge to jurors were unconstitutional.
While President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had previously said they would continue to support his nomination, Adegbile announced he would instead become a partner at the law firm WilmerHale.
The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department currently has several high profile investigations to conduct; in addition to investigating racial profiling by the Ferguson, Missouri police department, the office has still not finished its probe into the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Adegbile said that the “the principles for which you stand are more important than the office that you hold.” The White House said it is working toward announcing a new nominee for the post, which has been vacant since July 2013.
Seven Democratic senators joined a unified Republican front to vote against Adegbile, leaving him three votes short of confirmation. At the time, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat, called the vote “the lowest point that I think this Senate has descended into in my 30 years here.”
He also called out the Senate for holding a double standard based on race, pointing out that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts worked as an attorney pro bono for a man convicted of murdering eight people.