« Down with OCC? | Main | More on the Civil Rights Division »

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

More Honest Bob Casey

I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/capitolinq/Casey-opposes-Obama-nominee-tied-to-Mumia.html#3x14xEPlm86ZAfIj.99

"I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime."

[But any attorney who seeks to help guarantee that right, in a case in which I believe the crime is sufficiently heinous, becomes per se unqualified for high public office. So, hey attorneys, feel free to help guarantee that right to citizens.]

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 5, 2014 at 02:48 PM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference More Honest Bob Casey:


Casey was candid about the politics involved in his decision:

"At the same time, it is important that we ensure that Pennsylvanians and citizens across the country have full confidence in their public representatives - both elected and appointed. The vicious murder of Officer Faulkner in the line of duty and the events that followed in the 30 years since his death have left open wounds for Maureen Faulkner and her family as well as the City of Philadelphia. After carefully considering this nomination and having met with both Mr. Adegbile as well as the Fraternal Order of Police, I will not vote to confirm the nominee."

Posted by: anon | Mar 5, 2014 6:44:33 PM

But that honesty about the politics entirely contradicts what I quoted in the original post. If the wounds to the family--present for any crime, especially murder--and the opinions of the victim's friends--always present--are enough to disqualify the accused's lawyer from high office, you don't really believe in the right of representstion. Or you do when it's an accused you support.

So if Casey really wanted to be honest about the politics, he should have left out the "I respect" part, because he clearly doesn't.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Mar 5, 2014 7:35:54 PM

You're right, of course, but I do question nominating the lawyer who (unsuccessfully) defended Section 5 in Shelby County to run the Civil Rights Division. Section 5 has as much of a right to a defense as Abu-Jamal, I suppose, but I don't think the head of that division should be someone who's spent their career defending a civil rights enforcement regime that's probably seen its last days. Of course, if you think a majority of the Court would uphold Section 5 if Congress updates the coverage formula, maybe Adegbile was a great choice. But if you think this Court is hostile to effects tests premised on substantial amounts of intentional racial discrimination (which is what any updated Section 5 would be), you shouldn't appoint someone whose expertise is fighting the old, lost wars.

Posted by: Asher Steinberg | Mar 5, 2014 8:57:26 PM

"entirely contradicts"? meh. he's a politician. his vote didn't deprive Mumia of an amazing, dream team of top flight lawyers who pursued his case. nor will it deprive the next cause celebre from enjoying the same support, be it from the right or the left. Casey was unusual in that he offered a candid explanation of the politics of his vote. Democrats in urban areas cannot easily cross the FOP.

Posted by: anon | Mar 5, 2014 10:16:13 PM

Asher: I don't think that's quite fair. It assumes that the executive must base its nominations and constitutional views on what SCOTUS will do. It also assumes that the V/R/A truly is dead, even on a redrafted § 5. Finally, § 5 aside, the Civil Rights Division is playing a strong role in litigating individual challenges to some pretty egregious recent voting regulations (what dumping § 5 does is require the analysis ex post rather than ex ante). That those challenges won't or may not succeed because of the make-up and constitutional ideology of the current Court should not be the deciding factor in whether to nominate the person the President believes can assume the best positions on these matters.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Mar 5, 2014 10:50:05 PM

And these are excerpts from Senator Coons (D-Del), also showing that it was matter of constituents that are important to Democrats: "There is no question that Mr. Adegbile has had a significant and broad career as a leading civil rights advocate, and would be an asset to the Justice Department, but at a time when the Civil Rights Division urgently needs better relations with the law enforcement community, I was troubled by the idea of voting for an Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights who would face such visceral opposition from law enforcement on his first day on the job."

"The decades-long public campaign by others, however, to elevate a heinous, cold-blooded killer to the status of a political prisoner and folk hero has caused tremendous pain to the widow of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and shown great disrespect for law enforcement officers and families throughout our region."

Posted by: anon | Mar 6, 2014 12:31:15 AM

I was clerking in Philadelphia in the late '90s, when a lot of his appeals--and a lot of protests--were in the news. As a fellow clerk put it, "the further you get away from Philadelphia, the less guilty Mumia becomes."

But Coons' statements are problematic in two respects:

1) The second ¶ conflates what Adegbile did as a lawyer with the people who allegedly made Mumia a folk hero. In other words, Adegbile is not qualified to be AAG because he was a lawyer for someone whom *others* made a hero. So lawyers should not represent clients who have public support if certain people disagree with that support.

2) The first ¶ essentially means that if law enforcement believes someone is guilty, that person's *attorney* is disqualified from office because law enforcement will not like him. "I'm not voting against him because he was attorney for an unpopular client;, I'm voting against him because being an attorney for an unpopular client may anger law enforcement, I'm voting against anyone whom law enforcement doesn't like." It's a cute rhetorical trick.

It is impossible to reconcile voting against Adegbile *because he represented Mumia* (the only reason these Democrats offered for him not being qualified) with a legitimate, genuine belief in the right of all defendants, even likely guilty ones who commit particularly heinous crimes, to counsel. Everything that Coons said here and everything that Casey said show some qualification of that right or of the expectation/desire that good lawyers should take on these cases.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Mar 6, 2014 1:39:44 AM

In addition, as has been noted elsewhere, Roberts defended a heinous mass murderer.

Posted by: Barry | Mar 6, 2014 8:59:46 AM

The real reason for the opposition is a sort of public relations concern and like it or not (I don't really) such things factor in nominees here. It is not merely that he defended a murderer. It was not nature of the murder and controversy of the murderer.

This doesn't justify, it clarifies. And, it makes citing Roberts a bit off. First, did he kill a cop? Was it the cause celebre this was? That case concerned someone diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, so the grounds to challenge the execution is different. Oh, not so unimportant, the guy eventually was executed. That happened after Roberts was confirmed, but then being a justice of the Supreme Court is different too.

So, I don't think the comparison quite holds.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 6, 2014 6:23:34 PM

Post a comment