By Rich Bockmann
A federal appeals court Thursday temporarily suspended the court-ordered reforms to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics and removed the judge who ruled the controversial practices unconstitutional as the city appeals the case.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a stay of U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s Aug. 12 order to reform certain Police Department practices — including the appointment of an independent monitor and retraining officers — after the Bloomberg administration appealed the case.
Oral arguments in the appeal are scheduled to begin March 14, 3 1/2 months after Bloomberg leaves City Hall.
The city’s top lawyer said the ruling frees the Police Department from the “unjustified and deeply problematic” reforms Scheindlin ordered following the nine-week trial.
“In short, the ruling of unconstitutional practices is no longer operative, and that question will now receive a fresh and independent look by the appeals court and then, if necessary, by a different trial court judge,” Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo said.
The three-judge panel of the appeals court also ordered the case assigned to a different district judge, saying Scheindlin “ran afoul” of the code of conduct set out for state judges, which prohibits them from giving an appearance of partiality.
The appeals court said Scheindlin’s partiality had been compromised when in 2007 she encouraged a plaintiff to bring a racial-profiling case against the city.
In a statement released to the press later Thursday, Scheindlin said she did so because the plaintiffs argued the city had violated a previous order of hers from a 1999 class action lawsuit against the NYPD.
The appeals court — unprompted by the city’s appeal — also noted a series of interviews and articles Scheindlin did with the New York Law Journal, the Associated Press and the New Yorker in which she purported to “respond publicly to criticism of the district court.”
Scheindlin said she agreed to do the interviews under the condition that she would not discuss one of the stop-and-frisk cases she was overseeing at the time. She said some of the reporters took quotes from her previous written opinions and wove them in to give the appearance she had commented on the case.
“However, a careful reading of each interview will reveal that no such comments were made,” she said in her statement.
The civil liberties advocacy group that brought the stop-and-frisk lawsuit said it was “shocked that [the appeals judges] cast aspersions on the professional conduct of one of the most respected members of the federal judiciary.”
“The city carried out a whisper campaign against Judge Scheindlin but never once raised any legal claims of bias, even in its papers to the Court of Appeals,” the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement. “That unprompted they should reassign the case from a judge deeply steeped in the issues for the last 14 years who gave the city every opportunity to defend itself in the course of this litigation is troubling and unprecedented.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.