The liberal advocacy group "People for the American Way" has mounted what appears a first wave of attack on New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci by calling his past employment experiences a "troubled and litigious work history." Apparently, Ricci had filed a lawsuit in 1995 for discrimination because he was dyslexic. During the same time period, Ricci was discharged from the Middletown Fire Department, for what he claimed, were safety concerns he had initially raised. Ultimately, the Middletown Fire Department was fined for those safety violations, so the legitimacy of Ricci's complaint cannot be questioned.
Part of the problem is that liberal advocacy groups like "People for the American Way" have intentionally created a diversion known in debate as a "ad hominem". The Latin term Ad hominem literally translates into "at the man". In logic, ad hominem is a fallacy since it redirects attention to the person making an argument rather than focusing on the argument. Below is an example of ad hominem:
1. Doctor Frank told me that smoking is bad for my health.
2. Doctor Frank is a smoker himself.
Therefore, Doctor Frank is a hypocrite and his advice about smoking shouldn't be accepted.
The argument above seeks to discredit the doctor, rather than challenge the truthfulness of his advice. In a similar vein, People for the American Way are fearful about Frank Ricci testifying for one important reason. Ricci has a learning disability called dyslexia. Because of his deficit, he invested over $1,000 in preparation to pass his promotional exam. He had his family read and record audio clips of his study material so he could learn by listening. And because of his diligence and hard work, he scored high enough on his exam to qualify for a promotion. His personal narrative is a powerful illustration of how certain judicial philosophies can even smite the handicapped as well as the minority.
In the case of Frank Ricci, he may be called a "serial litigant", but labels do not detract from the point that the Supreme Court legitimized his complaint when it sided with him and Ben Vargas. It's implicit, therefore, that some liberal advocacy groups are concerned that the testimony of Ricci might have a particularly damaging effect on Sotomayor during the Senate hearing. And although this may be true to some extent, they should be more concerned with the testimony of Ben Vargas.
Ben Vargas, a Latino Firefighter from New Haven, was inexcusably denied his promotion by Sonia Sotomayor and her colleagues. He studied harder and sacrificed more than any Latino on the fire department; so when he heard that New Haven didn't certify the test because they had feared a disparate impact lawsuit, he was ready to quit his job and leave the city of which he was born. He did not want his kids to live in a place where those who worked hard were penalized and those who made excuses were rewarded.
Like Sonia Sotomayor, Ben Vargas is of a Puerto Rican stock, but Vargas does not believe that his ethnic experiences provide him the ability to make better judgments than anyone else. The views of Vargas are in line with traditional Hispanic culture, Sotomayor's is not. Hispanics are a proud people. They do not want handouts nor do they want to feel pitied like they have an ethnic handicap. They are willing to work hard for very little if they have to. Therefore, showing them a favoritism not granted to other groups is seen as a sign of disrespect. These liberal advocacy groups ought to fear Vargas, not Ricci. Vargas is the voice of the traditional Hispanic community and that is much more dangerous to liberalism than Frank Ricci.