New Haven Firefighter Originally Hired By Claiming Discrimination

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Deserved or not, the biggest political thorn in Sonia Sotomayor’s side has been one Frank Ricci of New Haven, CT. Ricci is a firefighter who sued the city claiming reverse discrimination in 2003 after officials there discarded the results of a firefighter’s promotion test after the test was revealed to have a disparate impact on blacks and Hispanics.

But flash back, if you will, to January 25, 1995, when, according to the Hartford Courant Ricci was singing the opposite tune: “A decorated firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the city, saying he was not hired because he is dyslexic.”

The lawsuit, filed recently in federal court, could shed light on the selection process used by the city, which has been beset with criticism over politics and nepotism.

Frank Ricci charges in the lawsuit that the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

Ricci, a Wallingford native who now lives in Maryland, was one of 795 candidates who were interviewed for 40 openings. Ricci told interviewers that he has a learning disability, the lawsuit says.

Fire commissioners have said that although Ricci was qualified, many others also were qualified because they passed the Civil Service examination.

Two years later, that case was resolved. “In a confidential settlement, struck two years later, Mr. Ricci withdrew his lawsuit in exchange for a job with the fire department and $11,143 in attorney’s fees.”

If you were Frank Ricci, you might say something like, “Frank Ricci got a job and somebody who wasn’t dyslexic didn’t.” Remember, this is the same Frank Ricci who took his reverse discrimination suit all the way to the Supreme Court, where lower court rulings against him–including one by Sotomayor’s Second Circuit–were overturned.

Ricci will testify against Sotomayor before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week–this despite the fact that his views on jurisprudence seem to begin and end with the proposition that legal protections against discrimination are great when they work in his favor, and unconscionable when they don’t.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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