A prominent civil rights lawyer whose nomination to a Justice Department post this spring was blocked over his role in efforts to commute the death sentence of a high-profile convicted murderer is joining law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. The selection drew strong opposition from police groups, Republicans and, ultimately, seven Senate Democrats who in March helped block his nomination.
The child of a white mother and Nigerian father, Adegbile emerged from an impoverished upbringing in the South Bronx to become an experienced Supreme Court litigator as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. That's part of the reason his nomination is being opposed by many conservatives. On matters of voting rights, affirmative action, and racial discrimination, Adegbile holds views that are broadly consistent with the Obama administration, the mainstream of the Democratic Party, and in many cases longstanding legal precedent. Conservatives view those positions as tantamount to, if not worse than, the discrimination that the policies are meant to resolve. The issue that has stirred intense conservative opposition to Adegbile is the NAACP LDF's successful defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black radical who was convicted of murdering white police officer Daniel Faulkner in Philadelphia in 1982. He presided over the team that successfully persuaded a federal court to commute Abu-Jamal's death sentence.