Published July 11, 2009
New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci, whose reverse discrimination claim is at the center of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's most controversial ruling, now finds himself in the crosshairs of the judge's supporters.
Sotomayor's backers are urging reporters to probe what one called the "troubled and litigious work history" of Ricci, according to McClatchy Newspapers.
Ricci will be among the 14 witnesses for Republicans in Sotomayor's weeklong Judiciary Committee hearings that open Monday. If confirmed -- as is widely expected -- the appellate judge, 55, would be the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the nation's highest court.
Sotomayor rejected Ricci's reverse discrimination claim in an appeals court decision but the Supreme Court reversed that ruling last week.
Republicans point to Sotomayor's decision as evidence she might let her personal and political views -- particularly a belief in racial preferences for minorities -- influence her decisions.
But supporters of Sotomayor are apparently trying to shift the focus on Ricci.
People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, and other advocates urged the newspaper to dig into Ricci's background, specifically an earlier 1995 lawsuit the firefighter filed contending the city of New Haven discriminated against him because he's dyslexic. They also cite Hartford Courant stories from the same period detailing how Ricci was fired by a fire department in Middletown, Conn. -- allegedly, Ricci said then, because of safety concerns he raised.
The Middletown-area fire department was later fined for safety violations, but the Connecticut Department of Labor dismissed Ricci's retaliation complaint.
Still, Republicans believe Ricci will be a powerful witness.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told the newspaper that Americans can identify with Ricci.
"He took on a second job and worked hard, but was denied due to the same legal concepts" that were designed to protect people's rights, Graham said, referring to affirmative action.