Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ricci at Sotomayor Hearings: 'Firefighters Who Earned Promotions Were Denied Them...' (VIDEO)

From the Los Angeles Times, "Sotomayor Hearings: Frank Ricci, Plaintiff in Conn. Discrimination Case, Finally Speaks":

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Frank Ricci, the witness we’ve all been waiting for at Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, finally took the floor and told his story to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There were no stunning revelations. But Ricci, addressing the appellate court denial of his civil rights case, laid down one line straight from the Republican playbook:

“Americans have the right to go into our federal courts and have their cases judged on the Constitution and/or federal laws,” he said, “and not on politics or personal feelings.”

Ricci has been the most vocal of the 19 New Haven, Conn., firefighters who sued under federal civil rights laws after the results of a promotion test were thrown out. The city did so because it feared it would face a lawsuit from black and Latino firefighters claiming the tests had a discriminatory effect on minorities. The white plaintiffs lost at the trial court and before Sotomayor’s appeals court panel, but eventually prevailed in the Supreme Court.

Several of the firefighters, dressed in uniform, sat behind Ricci during the hearing. Another plaintiff, Lt. Ben Vargas, also testified.
Also, Ricci's testimony from the Washington Post, "Frank Ricci Testifies at Sonia Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings" (Transcript):

The lieutenant's test that I took was without a doubt a job- related exam that was based on skills, knowledge and abilities needed to ensure public and the firefighters' safety.

We all had an equal opportunity to succeed as individuals, and we were all provided a road map to prepare for the exam.

Achievement is neither limited nor determined by one's race but by one's skills, dedication, commitment and character. Ours is not a job that can be handed out without regard to merit and qualifications.

For this reason, I and many others prepared for these positions throughout our careers. I studied harder than I ever had before, reading, making flash cards, highlighting, reading again, all while listening to prepared tapes.

I went before numerous panels to prepare for the oral assessment. I was a virtual absentee father and husband for months because of it.

In 2004 the City (ph) of New Haven felt not enough minorities would be promoted and that the political price for complying with Title VII (ph), the city civil service rules, and the charter, would be too high.

Therefore they chose not to fill the vacancies. Such action deprived all of us the process set forth by the rule of law. Firefighters who earned promotions were denied them.

Despite the important civil rights and constitutional claims we raised, the Court of Appeals panel disposed of our case in an unsigned, unpublished summary order that consisted of a single paragraph that made mention of my dyslexia and thus led many to think that this was a case about me and a disability.

This case had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with ensuring our command officers were competent to answer the call and our right to advance in our profession based on merit, regardless of race.

Americans have the right to go into our federal courts and have their cases judged based on the Constitution and our laws, not on politics or personal feelings.

The lower court's belief that citizens should be reduced to racial statistics is flawed. It only divides people who don't wish to be divided along racial lines. The very reason we have civil service rules is to root out politics, discrimination and nepotism.

Our case demonstrates that these ills will exist if the rules of merit and the law are not followed.

Our courts are the last resorts for Americans whose rights are violated. Making decisions on who should have command positions solely based on statistics and politics, where the outcome of the decision could result in injury or death, is contrary to sound public policy.
I watched Ricci testify. You can see at the video how his reading is stilted. But he articulates the issues perfectly.

What a guy!

And, as usual, we saw early this week the left's scurilous attempt to smear the firefighter. See, "
The Borking of Frank Ricci."