President Barack Obama tonight nominated Debo Adegbile to replace Tom Perez as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Adegbile has been senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will take up his nomination, since July. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called him “an excellent choice.”
“Debo has earned a reputation for working to bring members from both sides of the aisle together,” Leahy said. “This year, when I considered who to hire to work on the next voting rights legislation, I could think of no one more qualified or experienced than Debo.”
And a coming legal battle over voting rights will be a priority if Adegbile is confirmed. Attorney General Eric Holder has directed the Civil Rights Division to shift its resources to the enforcement of a number of federal voting laws not impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder striking down Section 4 of the civil rights legislation.
“I argued the Shelby County voting rights case side by side with Debo in the D.C. district court,” said Samuel Bagenstos, who was the Justice Department’s lead attorney in the case. “Debo is a really terrific lawyer with outstanding judgment, and he’ll be a great Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.”
He previously spent more than a decade with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, including as special counsel, acting president and director-counsel. And leaders of prominent civil rights organizations quickly applauded the pick.
Perez departed for the Labor Department in July, narrowly winning Senate confirmation by a 54-46 vote with all Republicans in opposition. Jocelyn Samuels, the No. 2 in the Civil Rights Division, has been the acting Assistant Attorney General.
Prior to joining the NAACP, Adegbile was an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison from 1994 to 2001.
He received a B.A. from Connecticut College and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.