Dozens Of Pro Bono Attorneys Back Biden's Beleaguered Court Pick Adeel Mangi

WASHINGTON ― Dozens of pro bono partners, legal counselors and chairs at top law firms and national organizations are backing President Joe Biden’s court pick Adeel Mangi — and warning that senators are damaging the legal profession itself with their poor treatment of Mangi in his confirmation process.

“We are gravely concerned about the attacks on Mr. Mangi,” reads a letter delivered Friday to Senate party leaders, signed by 49 pro bono attorneys from around the country. “However, our main concern is that while these attacks are on Mr. Mangi, they have wide-ranging impact: they serve to demonize, vilify, and ultimately discourage pro bono service by the legal profession.”

Biden last year tapped Mangi, a veteran civil litigator in New Jersey, for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. He checks all the boxes for a solid judicial candidate. He was unanimously rated as well qualified by the American Bar Association. He’s been hailed for his legal and pro bono work by groups ranging from the AFL-CIO to the Coalition of the Underrepresented Law Enforcement Associations to more than a dozen Jewish groups.

Mangi also happens to be Muslim and, if confirmed, he would be the first Muslim U.S. appeals court judge in the country. His confirmation would also tip the ideological balance of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, giving it an even mix of Democrat- and GOP-appointed judges.

Chalk it up to plain old Islamophobia or a willingness by the GOP to do whatever it takes to prevent Democrats from balancing out that court, but Mangi has become the target of one of the ugliest smear campaigns against a federal judicial nominee in recent history.

Republican senators and dark money groups spent months baselessly trying to cast Mangi as an antisemitic terrorist sympathizer. When those attempts didn’t seem to be working — prominent Jewish organizations lined up in defense of Mangi — the GOP pivoted to a new line of attack, now groundlessly trying to paint Mangi as someone who supports cop killers.

Adeel Mangi testifies during his Senate confirmation hearing on Dec. 13, 2023. During the hearing, GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) demanded that Mangi share his personal views on the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Oct. 7 attack in Israel and the Israeli-Hamas conflict in general.

The attacks on Mangi are tied to his pro bono work with two groups: Rutgers Law School’s Center for Security, Race and Rights, and a New York City nonprofit called the Alliance of Families for Justice, which provides counseling to family members of people who have been incarcerated. In bothcases, the GOP has been attempting to tie Mangi to extreme views held by other people linked to those groups, but to whom he has no direct connection.

In their Friday letter to Senate leaders, the pro bono attorneys warned of “unintended consequences” of some senators’ attacks on Mangi.

“They serve to disincentivize law firm lawyers from pursuing pro bono work or volunteer service, which could be seen as hindering future opportunities, including nomination to the federal judiciary,” reads their letter.

“The attacks on Mr. Mangi’s service tell attorneys they must choose between either serving their communities through pro bono work or pursuing judicial nominations, when in fact, our judiciary is made richer when composed of judges with histories of meaningful pro bono service.”

Catherine Weiss, one of the signatories to the letter, told HuffPost that the attorneys sent it because they were concerned that people didn’t realize the damage that certain senators are doing to the cause of pro bono service.

“Many of Mr. Mangi’s advocacy efforts stemmed from laudable pro bono practice, similar to that in many large law firms,” said Weiss, a partner and chair of the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler LLP. “Pillorying Mr. Mangi for these efforts threatens to discourage lawyers in private practice from engaging in the civil rights cases and other pro bono work that assists thousands of clients in accessing justice every year.”

Here’s a copy of the attorneys’ letter:

Adeel Mangi letter from pro bono attorneys by jen_bendery on Scribd

Lawrence Lustberg, another signatory, told HuffPost that discouraging lawyers from giving back to their communities has the net effect of preventing already disadvantaged people from obtaining competent representation.

“Many times, these cases involve representation of those who are least popular in society, in very controversial matters,” said Lustberg, the director of the John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest & Constitutional Law at the firm Gibbons P.C. “Those who take on those kinds of cases should not have to face the kind of criticism and obloquy that Mr. Mangi has faced — for cases that demonstrated his commitment to pro bono work and is much more appropriately viewed as a truly selfless credit to our profession.”

For the moment, Mangi’s nomination is hanging by a thread. Democrats hold a razor-thin majority in the Senate, and three have already said that they won’t vote for Mangi. That’s enough to tank his nomination, in the event that the chamber votes when all senators are present. Nevada Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen straight-up caved to the pressure of the GOP’s attacks. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), meanwhile, said that he won’t support Mangi without at least one Republican also supporting him.

But the White House hasn’t rescinded Mangi’s nomination, and the Democratic senator who recommended him to the White House in the first place, Cory Booker of New Jersey, is vowing to keep fighting for him.

“One of the sadder chapters of my time in the Senate,” Booker told HuffPost earlier this month when asked for any updates on Mangi’s nomination.

Asked Monday about any plans for a potential confirmation vote for Mangi, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said only, “Nothing new to report, unfortunately.”