Frank Ricci was the lead plaintiff in Ricci v. DeStefano, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Sonia Sotomayor on the issue of whether the City of New Haven discriminated against mostly white firefighters. The Supreme Court decision, as well as Sotomayor’s handling of the case, are significant points against Sotomayor’s nomination, though likely not enough to derail confirmation.

Enter Frank Ricci again. McClatchy newspapers reports that Democratic opposition research groups have decided to attack Ricci’s background because he will be testifying about his case as part of the confirmation hearings:

Supporters of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor are quietly targeting the Connecticut firefighter who’s at the center of Sotomayor’s most controversial ruling.

On the eve of Sotomayor’s Senate confirmation hearing, her advocates have been urging journalists to scrutinize what one called the “troubled and litigious work history” of firefighter Frank Ricci.

This is opposition research: a constant shadow on Capitol Hill.

McClatchy further compares the efforts to discredit Ricci to the efforts to discredit Anita Hill, who testified against Clarence Thomas at his confirmation hearings:

Nor is he the only Supreme Court confirmation witness to receive sharp elbows. In 1991, for instance, then-Senate Minority Leader Alan Simpson of Wyoming warned that witness Anita Hill would be “injured and destroyed and belittled and hounded and harassed” if she testified against nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill was preparing to testify that she’d been sexually harassed by Thomas.

Hill’s subsequent testimony threw into question Thomas’s confirmation, during a hearing he likened to a “high-tech lynching.” A closely divided Senate ultimately confirmed him.

The analogy between Ricci and Hill does not hold. Ricci never made accusations of misconduct against Sotomayor. He just happens to be the lead (and successful) plaintiff in a case which is controversial because of how Sotomayor handled the case. Hill’s credibility was on the line because Thomas’ alleged misconduct took place with no one other than Thomas and Hill present; it was a classic “he said, she said” dispute in which credibility counted for everything.

So Frank Ricci is no Anita Hill.

Related Posts:
Supreme Court Reverses Sotomayor
Sotomayor’s Supporters May Spin Her Out Of A Job

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