When toxins poisoned drinking water in Dickson County, Tenn., the Holts, an African-American family, were told for years that their water was safe while their white neighbors were warned and given access to an alternative source. All of the Holt family eventually came down with life-threatening or fatal health problems like cancer. After learning that they were left to drink contaminated water, it was Adegbile who represented them, sought justice on their behalf, and helped to ensure that states and companies could no longer subject families to this type of agony without consequences.
When young African-American, Latino, and Asian-American job applicants were being systematically denied employment at a popular chain of clothing stores because their looks weren't "classic" enough, Debo Adegbile represented them, too. As part of its settlement with these applicants, the company agreed to change its hiring policies to ensure that this type of discrimination wouldn't repeat itself.
When struggling homeowners in Indiana were faced with foreclosure, political opportunists saw it as a chance to deny them their right to vote — using their pending foreclosures as a justification for throwing out their voter registration. Debo Adegbile represented them and helped to ensure that people in Indiana could vote in their communities regardless of their financial circumstances.
Cases like these — about voting rights, employment discrimination, and environmental safety, in addition to those involving fair housing, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act — make up much of the portfolio for which the head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department is responsible.
But there have been attempts to shout down Adegbile's qualifications and to distort his record on death-penalty cases. These distortions are a misguided attempt to tie Adegbile to the actions of one of his clients, a convicted murderer of a police officer. The American Bar Association has praised his representation, saying that it is "consistent with the finest tradition of this country's legal profession and should be commended, not condemned."
The truth is that the head of the Civil Rights Division is far too important a position to allow substance to be hijacked by unhinged rhetoric. A man of these qualifications is perfectly suited to head the Civil Rights Division and, after a sober review of his talents and qualifications, should be confirmed.
Debo Adegbile has shown time and again that he can represent clients who most need protection. And once confirmed he will represent every person under the U.S. Constitution with that same zeal and integrity.
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