Let me summarize about the man who was nominated by the President of the United States for a prestigious judicial position.
He was born in New York State.
He is of mixed ancestry.
He attended a prestigious law school.
He’s married and has two children.
He’s been called one of the best litigators of his generation.
He represented a death row inmate convicted for murder.
He defended a very unpopular killer and made a lot of enemies for doing so – many who swore they would ruin his career.
So when the vote came up to confirm him, senators from the President’s opposition party made it clear that they were deeply troubled and going to block the nomination.
Now, be honest. You think I’m talking about Debo Adegbile – Obama’s nominee to head the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department, right?
Well, every single word up there described him.
But I wasn’t talking about Adegbile.
Sorry to break the news to our two Pennsylvania senators that voted against Adegbile, but I was talking about someone else - Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.
Thanks to a tip from my colleague, Philly.com writer Sam Wood, I learned that back when John Roberts was just an ordinary lawyer like Debo Adegbile, he represented Florida death row inmate John Ferguson, convicted in the murder of not one … not two … not three … but, eight, yes, eight people.
Makes Adegbile's involvement look like chump change to me.
Roberts defended Ferguson pro bono when he was working in private practice.
He took a lot of heat for doing so – particularly from the families of the victims.
Fast forward to March 3, 2014 – the day Debo Adegbile was nixed by the Senate, including our two senators, Pat Toomey and Bob Casey.
Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the Philly cop Daniel Faulkner, who Abu-Jamal was convicted of murdering, said today, “I would argue that Mr. Adegbile's decision to defend a cop killer should preclude him from holding any public position.”
I despise Mumia Abu Jamal. May he rot in prison.
But with that awful statement, Maureen Faulkner has lost my support. In America, an accused person has the right to representation. And, in fact, they are entitled to strong representation – whether they are accused of killing one police officer or 8 non-police officers. The fact that an attorney decided to represent an accused person - no matter how vile that person is - should not preclude that attorney from serving in government.
Noted criminal defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. has represented a lot of very unpopular folks over his career. I was curious how he felt so I contacted him last month about Adegbile’s nomination. Peruto told me, “While I think Mumia is as guilty as sin, other people can have a different opinion in this great country. If we start excluding people from consideration, for certain positions, simply because of that difference of opinion, then we need to move to Moscow.”
We all know what’s going over there, don’t we?
I have a different suggestion.
Senators Toomey and Casey: Are you willing to call for Chief Justice John Robert’s resignation?
Somehow, I don’t think so.
Funny - to me, this case is black and white … in so many ways.