Two New Haven firefighters told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday that they believe Sonia Sotomayor LAW ’79 and other judges on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals infringed upon their rights when they summarily rejected their appeal in a reverse discrimination lawsuit.

Ricci did not address Sotomayor in his testimony, speaking only to the frustration he and his colleagues faced when they were denied promotions after no black firefighters scored well enough on a city-administered exam to earn promotion.

The firefighter — who was the lead plaintiff in the case Ricci v. DeStefano, which the Supreme Court ruled on last month — said that the appellate court’s ruling “divides people who don’t wish to be divided along racial lines.”

“Achievement is neither limited nor determined by one’s race, but by one’s skills, dedication, commitment and character,” he said.

In his testimony, Vargas, who is Hispanic, congratulated Sotomayor on being the first Hispanic nominee for the Court. But he also said he felt his rights were violated by the ruling she joined in handing down.

“I expected Lady Justice with the blindfolds on and a reasoned opinion from a federal court of appeals, telling me, my fellow plaintiffs and the public what that court’s view on the law was and do it in an open and transparent way,” Vargas said. “Instead, we were devastated to see a one-paragraph unpublished order summarily dismissing our case and indeed even the notion that we had presented important legal issues to that court of appeals.”

Also testifying Thursday was Yale Law School professor and former acting dean Kate Stith, whose husband, Jose Cabranes LAW ’65, serves with Sotomayor on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stith urged the senators to vote in favor of Sotomayor’s confirmation, calling her nomination “exceptionally strong.”

“I am judging her on the same criteria I used when I was asked by the Yale Daily News whether Samuel Alito was a strong nomination to the Court,” she said in her testimony, referring to an interview conducted for this article. “I answered ‘yes’ then, and I answer ‘yes’ now. Specifically, I am confident that Judge Sotomayor would serve this nation with powerful intelligence, vigor, rectitude and an abiding commitment to our Constitution.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)