In what seems to be another shameful example of throwing citizens under the bus to achieve an agenda, supporters of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor are discreetly urging reporters to look into the history of New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci. People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, e-mailed a press release citing “Frank Ricci’s troubled and litigious work history,” pointing out that Ricci had filed a lawsuit against New Haven claiming discrimination because he was dyslexic and that he was fired from another fire department after complaining about safety concerns.
I’m not sure I understand how disparaging Frank Ricci translates into a good thing for Sotomayor. Frank Ricci’s lawsuit, joined by several other firefighters, was against the city of New Haven, not Sonia Sotomayor. She happened to have an opinion on the case that was determined to be incorrect by a majority of the Supreme Court. Smearing the plaintiff in a case that a judge hears might be good for the defendant, but I don’t get how it’s good for the judge shown to be incorrect by the highest court in the land.
It does make sense, though, when you recognize that the Court’s overturning of Sotomayor is damaging to her resume, and that the reversal appears as a rebuke to Sotomayor’s ethnically tinted views of justice that have surfaced more than once. It also makes sense when you discover that after a public image campaign lauding her personal story, Sotomayor enters her confirmation hearing with approval/opposition numbers closer to failed SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers than to any of the other most recent nominees. In circumstances like that, it can be easy to see why supporters might question the character of the person most recently and prominently involved in an embarrassing episode, regardless of whether the two are directly antagonistic or not. It recalls the treatment of Joe the Plumber, but at least he asked a question directly to Barack Obama; Ricci just had the misfortune of having his case heard by Sotomayor.
As it stands now, Sotomayor will most likely be confirmed by the Senate – unless she performs poorly during the hearing or has some sort of major gaffe. It’s a highly remote possibility given Sotomayor’s record, but you never know. In any case, her views regarding the judiciary deserve tough and fair scrutiny, and I hope she gets that rather than warmed-over platitudes by well-wishing Senators hamming for the cameras.