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New Haven Firefighter Frank Ricci Just Loves Him Some Lawsuits

Frank Ricci has become the poster child for the right in their attacks against the Sonia Sotomayor nomination because she followed current law and did

Frank Ricci has become the poster child for the right in their attacks against the Sonia Sotomayor nomination because she followed current law and didn't create new law. You know, the thing that conservatives complain about all the time, but new information is surfacing about the firefighter who sued New Haven in the first place, Frank Ricci.

It seems he has a penchant for suing. Isn't that another issue conservatives can't stand?

Ricci is invariably painted as a reluctant standard-bearer; a hardworking man driven to litigation only when his dreams of promotion were shattered by a system that persecutes white men. This is the narrative we will hear next week, but it somewhat oversimplifies Ricci's actual employment story. For instance, it's not precisely true, as this one account would have it, that Frank Ricci "never once [sought] special treatment for his dyslexia challenge." In point of fact, Ricci sued over it.

According to local newspapers, Ricci filed his first lawsuit against the city of New Haven in 1995, at the ripe old age of 20, for failing to hire him as a firefighter. That January, the Hartford Chronicle reported that Ricci sued, saying "he was not hired because he is dyslexic." The complaint in that suit, filed in federal court, alleged that the city's failure to hire Ricci because of his dyslexia violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Frank Ricci was one of 795 candidates interviewed for 40 jobs. According to his complaint, the reason he was not hired was that he disclosed his dyslexia in an interview. That case was settled in 1997 with a confidential settlement in which Ricci withdrew his lawsuit in exchange for a job with the fire department and $11,143 in attorney's fees.

In 1998, Ricci was talking about filing lawsuits again, this time over a dispute with his new employer, Middletown's South Fire District—which had hired him in August of 1997. According to a Hartford Courant report of Aug. 11, 1998, Ricci was dismissed from the Middletown fire department after only eight months. He promptly appealed his dismissal, claiming that fire officials had retaliated against him for conducting an investigation into the department's response to a controversial fire. A story in the Hartford Courant dated Aug. 9, 1997, has Ricci vowing "to pursue this to the fullest extent of the law."

In August of 1998, a state Department of Labor investigation cleared Chief Wayne S. Bartolotta of any wrongdoing in the firing. The Aug. 3, 1998, letter from the state Department of Labor indicated that the case was closed with a finding of no violation. "After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the South Fire District did not discriminate against Mr. Ricci." Ricci's response? According to the Courant, Ricci contended "Their decision was political, it has nothing to do with who was right and who was wrong." He told the paper he would "pursue the matter in civil court."...read on

Brian Beutler adds:

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."

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