Gotham Gazette

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Federal Appeals Court Blocks Stop-And-Frisk Ruling, Removes Judge

Updated with statements from the city, Judge Scheindlin and mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota. 

A federal appeals court today froze a lower court’s ruling that the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals also ordered that the judge behind the ruling be removed from her the case, writing that the "appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation was compromised."


That judge, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, ruled in August that the NYPD’s use of the controversial policing method was "indirect racial profiling.”

"We could not be more pleased with the Court's findings," said city attorney Michael A. Cardozo in a statement today. "This ruling not only ensures that the remedies ordered by the District Court — which we believe were unjustified and deeply problematic — will be put on hold during our appeal, but it stays the liability decision on the Police Department’s compliance with the Constitution."

Scheindlin also spoke out after her expulsion from the case, justifying her decsion on particulars in the case as well as for talking to the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin in May, which the appeal court innapropriate.

"All of the interviews identified by the Second Circuit were conducted under the express condition that I would not comment on the Floyd case," Scheindlin wrote. "And I did not."

When Scheindlin's original ruling came down, the decision was hailed by police reform advocates as proof that the NYPD had engaged in policing that disproportionately targeted black and Latino men. Democratic mayoral candidates during this summer's primary also took umbrage under the ruling.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg — whose office appealed Scheindlin's ruling — defended the policy. The outgoing mayor accused the candidates of using campaign rhetoric to score political points with voters and risking the city's strides in public safety.

Bloomberg also personally took Scheindlin to task for her decision.

"Think about this judge on stop-and-frisk," he said during a radio appearance in mid-August. "What does she know about policing? Absolutely zero."

The ruling has also been featured heavily during the general election, with Republican candidate Joe Lhota defending the NYPD from Scheindlin's ruling. His Democratic rival, Bill de Blasio, made significant inroads with primary voters, however, by criticizing how stop-and-frisks have been conducted under Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

"I'm extremely disappointed in today's decision," de Blasio said in a statement. "We shouldn't have to wait for reforms that both keep our communities safe and obey the Constitution. We have to end the overuse of stop and frisk — and any delay only means a continued and unnecessary rift between our police and the people they protect."

Lhota had a different take.

"Bravo! As I have said all along, Judge Scheindlin's biased conduct corrupted the case and her decision was not based on the facts," Lhota said in a statement. "The ruling by the nation's second highest court was an unprecedented rejection of both the result of the case and the manner with which it was achieved."

The now-stayed order Scheindlin had released also called a pilot program to place body cameras on police officers and installing attorney Peter L. Zimroth as an independent monitor to oversee the department’s use of stop-and-frisk.

The next scheduled court date for the case is March 14, 2014, three months into the next administration.

De Blasio, who has maintained a commanding lead over Lhota in various polls, has already vowed to drop the appeal.

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