The U.S. Senate yesterday voted against the nomination of Debo Adegbile to become head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Seven Democratic Senators heeded pressure against Adegbile’s nomination by the Fraternal Order of Police, who objected to the nominee’s participation in a legal appeal against imposition of the death penalty on a convicted cop killer from Philadelphia. I do not recall any opposition by the police union to the nomination of John Roberts to become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court–even though Roberts helped defend a man convicted of killing eight people in Florida. As a NYT blog notes, there seems to be a new hierarchy of victimhood.
The brave work police do to protect law-abiding citizens against criminals is not advanced or promoted by attacking the adversarial system of law, in which part of a lawyer’s job involves defending some nasty people along with some who have been unfairly accused. Lawyers are often scorned and ridiculed, sometimes for good reason, but if police unions or anyone else campaign selectively against some judicial or governmental nominees because they did their part in a system designed to presume innocence until proven guilty, they are sowing the wind. Of course lawyers defend plenty of dirtbags–that’s part of their job. If you have a problem with that, you are inviting anarchy. If a police union attacks some murderer-defending nominees and not others, they (and I am not talking about cops on the beat, but about the Fraternal Order leaders) are promoting a nasty, brutish, and short life for everyone. I am not taking a position here on the sleaziness or uprightness of lawyers as a class of people. I am attacking the lack of professionalism and self-discipline on display here by an organization representing police, which may have the power going forward to block some nominees but will likely do itself little credit thereby. The president of the fraternal order of police called the nomination a “thumb in the eye of our nation’s law enforcement officers.” Not true, unless the law enforcement officers are going to be judge and jury too. We are all part of a system in which legal representation, even for horrible people, is close to the heart of what makes us civilized and free.