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An open letter to Senator Chris Coons from students, faculty and alumni of the Yale Law and Divinity

Schools. Senator Coons is an alumnus of both schools (class of 1992).

Dear Senator Coons, We write today to express our profound disappointment over your vote against Debo Adegbile for Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. We hope that should Mr. Adegbile’s nomination come before the Senate again, you will support him. In your own words, 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.” Yet you voted against Mr. Adegbile. You did so citing the concerns of the law enforcement community about Mr. Adegbile’s work on a legal appeal for Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man convicted and sentenced to death 30 years ago for killing police officer Daniel Faulkner. As students, professors and practitioners, your vote alarmed us. It signaled a lack of respect for the fundamental American legal principle that all parties have a right to zealous representation, and sent a message that young people considering public service careers should avoid work on behalf of unpopular or marginalized communities and clients. Lawyers who advocate for unpopular clients, even guilty ones, perform an honorable public service. This advocacy is especially important when defendants are indigent and facing capital punishment, a peculiar institution that has not shed its ugly history of racial discrimination. Leading American lawyers have long recognized this bedrock tenet of our adversarial justice system, from John Adams’ defense of British soldiers charged with massacring American civilians, to Thurgood Marshall’s iconic advocacy for Black defendants sentenced to death in the South, to John Roberts’ appellate work on behalf of a man accused of killing eight people. Your statement on Mr. Adegbile’s nomination admirably articulates this principle: “As a lawyer, I understand the importance of having legal advocates willing to fight for even the most despicable clients, and I embrace the proposition that an attorney is not responsible for the actions of their client.” We have trouble understanding your vote in light of these words. Moreover, your vote sends a disturbing message to young people considering careers in public service. Mr. Adegbile has been a tireless advocate for civil rights for the most vulnerable Americans. It is tragic irony to reject Mr. Adegbile for the head of the Civil Rights Division because he has a history of leading civil rights. Like Mr. Adegbile, many of us will have opportunities in our lives to help unpopular clients and communities. Should we shy away from Yale’s Capital Assistance Project because we might assist an indigent client accused of murder? Should we think twice before helping with appellate briefs arguing against the use of torture because the client is an alleged terrorist? You have made public service your life’s work. During your time at Yale, you advocated for homeless families and Haitian refugees with HIV/AIDS. We are grateful for your efforts on behalf of these marginalized communities, and believe this sort of work should be encouraged among those, like yourself, who seek to spend time in government. But your vote against Mr. Adegbile does the opposite. It condemns work on behalf of the least among us. And it sends a message to those of us beginning our careers that advocacy for unpopular groups and clients is incompatible with government service.

During your Senate race you discussed seeking to apply the “principles and values” that you honed during your time at Yale to your work as a public servant. Your vote last week fails to do so. Should Senator Reid bring Mr. Adegbile’s nomination back to the Senate floor, we ask that you honor the principles and values that you share with the Yale community and support Mr. Adegbile. Sincerely, Sparky Abraham Prof. Bruce Ackerman Sam Adriance Jessie Agatstein Tosin Agbabiaka Abdi Aidid Molly Alarcon Awet Andemicael Ashley Anderson Emma Andersson Ida Araya-Brumskine Zachary Arnold Anna Arons Bita Assad Hana Bajramovic Ian Bassin Prof. Emily Bazelon (Lecturer) Joel Bergeland Reginald Betts Gautam Bhatia Daniel Bousquet Allan Bradley Megan Braun Prof. Stephen Bright (Lecturer) Prof. Lea Brilmayer Clark Bristol Alexandra Brodsky Jordan Rachel Brooks Rakim Brooks Emily Brown Jordan Bryant Prof. Robert Burt Angela Cai Elizabeth Chao Jeffrey Chen Michelle Cho Jade Chong-Smith Dave Christie Michael Clemente Jenna Cobb Katherine Conyers

Ryan Cooper Conchita Cruz Katherine Culver Dough Cunningham Leonard Curry Grant Damon Laura della Vedova Rachel Dempsey Elizabeth Deutsch Courtney Dixon Prof. Fiona Doherty Lara Domínguez Sara Doughton Stephen Douglas Kevin Durazo Jon Endean Kimberly Farbota Adele Faure Dylan Fay Prof. Owen Fiss (Emeritus) Carlton Forbes Elisabeth Ford Deborah Francois Daniel Friedman Lynsey Gaudioso Nicholas Gerschman Katherine Gibson Jacob Goldin Abigail Graber Corey Guilmette Alon Gur Prof. Lucas Guttentag (Lecturer) Prof. Clarence Hardy Alexandra Harrington Prof. Robert Harrison (Lecturer) Natalie Hausknecht Alex Hemmer Guianna Henriquez Prof. Jennifer Herdt Daniel Hessel Grace Heusner Jillian Hewitt Tyler Hill Margaret Horn Jessica Hunter Jonathan Hurley Dani Isaacsohn Jessica Jones

Katie Jones Prof. Dan Kahan Grace Kao Tanya Kapoor Prof. Blair Kauffman Noah Kazis Mark Kelley Mark Kelley Babur Khwaja Beezly Kiernan Stephanie Kim Sam Kleiner Robert Klipper Philipp Kotlaba Claudia Kraft Stephanie Krent Gabriel Kushin Lucas Lallinger Melissa Legge Whitney Leonard Carly Levenson Karen Li Colson Lin Paul Linden-Retek Aaron Littman Kathryn Loomis Rebecca Loomis Prof. Carroll Lucht (Emeritus) Amanda Lynch Tienmu Ma Kathryn Madison Prof. Andrew March (Adjunct) Eric Margulies Jessica Marsden Prof. Jerry Mashaw Cara McClellan Prof. Tracey Meares Eden Medina David Menschel Prof. Noah Messing (Lecturer) Sarafina Midzik Lee Miller Hava Mirell Christine Monahan Ben Moskowitz Tasnim Motala Anjali Motgi Divya Musinipally

Chris Nason Jordan Navarrette Luke O'Brien Renagh O'Leary Prof. Angela Onwuachi-Willig (Visiting) Chris Pagliarella Bailey Pickens Ben Picozzi Devon Porter V Prentice Julian Prokopetz Gillian Quandt Lise Rahdert Sheela Ramesh Daniel Rauch Ajay Ravichandran Swapna Reddy Allen Reynolds Celia Rhoads Abigail Rich Nathan Robinson Emily Rock Prof. Susan Rose-Ackerman Noah Rosenblum Tomas Rua Chase Sackett Avinash Samarth Joe Sanderson Mike Schmidt Jordan Scruggs Chanakya Sethi Geoff Shaw Daniel Sheehan Jane Shim Julia Shu Zayn Siddique Prof. James Silk David Simins Prof. John Simon (Emeritus) Matthew Singleton Asher Smith Jessica So Julia Solorzano Cal Soto Jillian Stinchcomb Dan Swann Brian Sweeney Ruth Swift

Alexander Tabloff Alex Taubes Danny Townsend Prof. Denys Turner Eric Van Nostrand Julie Veroff Megan Wachspress Andrew Walchuk Jonas Wang LaShawn Warren Adrien Weibgen Joshua Weiss Kaitlin Welborn Graham White Porsha Williams Prof. Stephen Wizner (Emeritus) Mary Yanik Bernice Yu Jennifer Yun Prof. Noah Zatz (Visiting) Grace Zhang Haiyun Zhao