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Key Excerpt, Witness Testimony: McDaniel | Ricci | Vargas on Ricci v. DeStefano

Courtesy of CQ Transcriptions

MCDANIEL, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ARKANSAS: I'm here to rebut any assertion that her participation in the matter of Ricci v. DeStefano in any way reflects upon her qualifications or abilities to serve as a justice of the United States Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Ricci case, I, on behalf of the state of Arkansas, joined with five other attorneys general in support of the Second Circuit. Before I address the case in the brief, let me adjust the parties and their issues.

I entered the world of public service long before I became an elected official. After college I turned down my admission into law school and took a civil service exam in my hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas. I became a police officer, and I saw firsthand the heroism and dedication of the men and women who protect and serve our communities every day.

Firefighters like Frank Ricci and his colleagues run into homes and buildings when everyone else is running out. I have the highest respect and gratitude for all who serve our communities, states and nation. They are heroes among us, and they deserve to be treated fairly by our system...

FIREFIGHTER FRANK RICCI: ... In 2004, the City (ph) of New Haven felt not enough minorities would be promoted and that the political price for complying with Title VII (ph), the city civil service rules, and the charter, would be too high.

Therefore they chose not to fill the vacancies. Such action deprived all of us the process set forth by the rule of law. Firefighters who earned promotions were denied them.

Despite the important civil rights and constitutional claims we raised, the Court of Appeals panel disposed of our case in an unsigned, unpublished summary order that consisted of a single paragraph that made mention of my dyslexia and thus led many to think that this was a case about me and a disability.

This case had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with ensuring our command officers were competent to answer the call and our right to advance in our profession based on merit, regardless of race.

Americans have the right to go into our federal courts and have their cases judged based on the Constitution and our laws, not on politics or personal feelings.

The lower court's belief that citizens should be reduced to racial statistics is flawed. It only divides people who don't wish to be divided along racial lines. The very reason we have civil service rules is to root out politics, discrimination and nepotism.

Our case demonstrates that these ills will exist if the rules of merit and the law are not followed.

Our courts are the last resorts for Americans whose rights are violated. Making decisions on who should have command positions solely based on statistics and politics, where the outcome of the decision could result in injury or death, is contrary to sound public policy.

RICCI: The more attention our case got, the more some people tried to distort it. It bothered us greatly that some perceived this case as involving a testing process that resulted in minorities being completely excluded from promotions.

That was entirely false, as minority firefighters were victimized by the city's decision as well. As a result of our case, they should now enjoy the career advancement that they've earned and deserve.

Enduring over five years of court proceedings took its toll on us and our families. That case was longer -- was no longer just about as, but about so many Americans who have lost faith in the court system.

When we finally won our case and saw the messages we received from every corner of the country, we understood that we did something important together. We sought basic fairness and evenhanded enforcement of the laws, something all Americans believe in...


Achievement is neither limited nor determined by one's race but by one's skills, dedication, commitment and character. Ours is not a job that can be handed out without regard to merit and qualifications.

For this reason, I and many others prepared for these positions throughout our careers. I studied harder than I ever had before, reading, making flash cards, highlighting, reading again, all while listening to prepared tapes.

I went before numerous panels to prepare for the oral assessment. I was a virtual absentee father and husband for months because of it.

In 2004 the City (ph) of New Haven felt not enough minorities would be promoted and that the political price for complying with Title VII (ph), the city civil service rules, and the charter, would be too high.

Therefore they chose not to fill the vacancies. Such action deprived all of us the process set forth by the rule of law. Firefighters who earned promotions were denied them.

Despite the important civil rights and constitutional claims we raised, the Court of Appeals panel disposed of our case in an unsigned, unpublished summary order that consisted of a single paragraph that made mention of my dyslexia and thus led many to think that this was a case about me and a disability.

This case had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with ensuring our command officers were competent to answer the call and our right to advance in our profession based on merit, regardless of race.

Americans have the right to go into our federal courts and have their cases judged based on the Constitution and our laws, not on politics or personal feelings.

The lower court's belief that citizens should be reduced to racial statistics is flawed. It only divides people who don't wish to be divided along racial lines. The very reason we have civil service rules is to root out politics, discrimination and nepotism.

Our case demonstrates that these ills will exist if the rules of merit and the law are not followed.

Our courts are the last resorts for Americans whose rights are violated. Making decisions on who should have command positions solely based on statistics and politics, where the outcome of the decision could result in injury or death, is contrary to sound public policy.

RICCI: The more attention our case got, the more some people tried to distort it. It bothered us greatly that some perceived this case as involving a testing process that resulted in minorities being completely excluded from promotions.

That was entirely false, as minority firefighters were victimized by the city's decision as well. As a result of our case, they should now enjoy the career advancement that they've earned and deserve.

Enduring over five years of court proceedings took its toll on us and our families. That case was longer -- was no longer just about as, but about so many Americans who have lost faith in the court system.

When we finally won our case and saw the messages we received from every corner of the country, we understood that we did something important together. We sought basic fairness and evenhanded enforcement of the laws, something all Americans believe in..

LIEUTENANT BENJAMIN VARGAS OF THE NEW HAVEN FIRE DEPARTMENT: Senators of both parties have noted the importance of this proceeding, because decisions of the United States Supreme Court Greatly impact the everyday lives of ordinary Americans. I suppose that I and my fellow plaintiffs have shown how true that is. I never envisioned being a plaintiff in a Supreme Court case, much less one that generated so much media and public interest. I am Hispanic and proud of their heritage and background that Judge Sotomayor and I share. And I congratulate Judge Sotomayor on her nomination.

But the focus should not have been on me being Hispanic. The focus should have been on what I did to our new promotion to captain and how my own government and some courts responded to that. In short, they didn't care. I think it important for you to know what I did, that I played by the rules and then endured a long process of asking the courts to enforce those rules.

I am the proud father of three young sons. For them I sought to better my life, and so I spent three months in daily study, preparing for an exam that was unquestionably job-related. My wife, a special education teacher, took time off from work to see me and our children through this process.

I knew we would see little of my sons during these months, when I studied every day at a desk in our basement, so I placed photographs of my boys in front of me. When I would get tired and wanted to stop -- wanted to stop, I would look at the pictures, realize that their own future depended on mine, and I would keep going. At one point I packed up and went to a hotel for a day to avoid any distractions, and those pictures came with me.

I was shocked when I was not rewarded for this hard work and sacrifice, but I actually was penalized for it. I became not Ben Vargas, the fire lieutenant who proved themselves qualified to be captain, but a racist statistic. I had to make decisions whether to join those who wanted promotions to be based on race and ethnicity or join those who would insist on being judged solely on their qualifications and the content of their character.

Read the full testimonies of McDaniel, Ricci and Vargas.


By Washington Post editors  |  July 16, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Ricci v. DeStefano  
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