SESSIONS HAS A WITNESS LIST…. This just doesn’t seem appropriate.

Republicans will call two New Haven firefighters to testify in the confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor next week, making clear the GOP’s intent to place affirmative action at the center of the Senate battle over Sotomayor’s nomination.

A Judiciary Committee press release lists Frank Ricci and Ben Vargas as expected Republican witnesses. Ricci was the lead plaintiff in Ricci v. DeStefano, the controversial case in which Sotomayor ruled the New Haven fire department acted constitutionally when it discounted the results of a qualifying test for promotions after too few black firefighters scored as high as their white counterparts. Vargas, who is Hispanic, was the only non-white co-plaintiff in the racially charged case.*

The point of this is obvious. In Ricci, Sotomayor applied precedent. Sessions & Co. want to make that controversial during her confirmation hearing, so they’re bringing Ricci and Vargas to testify in the hopes of generating some … what’s the word I’m looking for … empathy for their lawsuit.

But taking a step back, this is more than just a cheap stunt. Judiciary Committee Republicans are calling on former litigants to complain about a judge who ruled against them. While I don’t doubt that Ricci and Vargas are capable firefighters, they’re hardly objective witnesses, qualified to evaluate the judge’s record.

And as long as we’re on the subject, Judiciary Committee Republicans have also called Peter Kirsanow as a witness. Brian Beutler reported, “Who is Kirsanow, you ask? According to a 2002 Knight-Ridder report, he’s this guy: ‘A member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission said Friday that he could foresee a scenario in which the public would demand internment camps for Arab Americans if Arab terrorists strike again in this country.’”

Next week’s hearings are bound to be interesting, even if confirmation is a foregone conclusion.

* corrected in the original

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.