Appeals Court Blasts District Judge in Stop and Frisk Case

We reported in our blog this past August (Judge Rules NYPD Stop and Frisk Policy Unconstitutional) about the recent court decision regarding the New York City Police Department’s stop and frisk policy. Federal District Judge Shira Scheindlin had ruled that the practice was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. In the process of rendering her opinion, Judge Scheindlin made some statements that angered city officials, including Mayor Bloomberg. In fact, the Mayor stated after the ruling was issued, that the NYPD did not receive a fair trial, and indicated that her decision would be appealed.

What happened next appears to have vindicated the Mayor’s position. First, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of Judge Scheindlin’s decision, including the appointment of a monitor for the NYPD, and the cessation of the stop and frisk practice. In so ruling, the panel said that her conduct, including giving media interviews during the trial, raised an issue as to her impartiality. Specifically, the panel stated that Judge Scheindlin violated Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct applicable to federal judges – that Canon provides that a judge must avoid any “appearance of impropriety.”

The City then asked the court to vacate the orders, which had only been stayed by the panel. Since that time, however, and while the motion to vacate the orders was pending, a new election took place in New York. Interestingly, the winner, Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio, campaigned in part on the reformation of the stop and frisk policy. He has since said that he will drop the appeal of Judge Scheindlin’s ruling.

The stop and frisk practice has been around for many years, but the number of stop and frisk incidents escalated dramatically during the Bloomberg administration. In 2011, for example, almost 685,000 people (most of whom were black or Hispanic) were subjected to stop and frisk, and this ultimately led to the filing of the current lawsuit, which claims that the people who were stopped were targeted based upon their races.

While the current administration is not bound by the intentions of the Mayor-elect, it appears likely that the lawsuit will wind down and that those involved will reach a resolution in the not too distant future.

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