NEW YORK—A federal appeals court Thursday blocked a judge’s order for changes to the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program. Judge Shira Scheindlin, who made the ruling Aug. 12, was also removed from the case.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3–0 that Scheindlin’s decisions will be halted pending the outcome of an appeal by the city, and the appeal will be ruled on by another judge.
The court stated that Scheindlin “ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.” It said that she showed impropriety in her conduct by giving interviews to the media and making related public statements. She was also accused of improperly applying related case ruling.
Scheindlin responded: “With respect to press interviews: all of the interviews identified by the Second Circuit were conducted under the express condition that I would not comment on the Floyd case. And I did not.”
“Some of the reporters used quotes from written opinions in Floyd that gave the appearance that I had commented on the case. However, a careful reading of each interview will reveal that no such comments were made.”
The appeals court heard arguments Tuesday on the requested stay.
Scheindlin had ruled that police officers violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of people by wrongly targeting black and Hispanic men with its stop-and-frisk program. She appointed an outside monitor to oversee major changes, including reforms in policies, training and supervision, and she ordered a pilot program to test body-worn cameras in some precincts where most stops occur.
The city’s top attorney, corporation counsel Michael A. Cardozo, said they could “not be more pleased” with the decision.
Cardozo also said in a statement that the city believes Scheindlin’s ruling was “unjustified and deeply problematic.”
De Blasio, Lhota Respond
Mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in a statement that the overuse of stop and frisk must be ended to avoid a rift between police and the community.
“We shouldn’t have to wait for reforms that both keep our communities safe and obey the Constitution,” said de Blasio.
As of press time, de Blasio’s campaign office did not respond to the question of whether he would continue the appeal if elected mayor.
Joe Lhota, also a mayoral candidate, used the opportunity to attack de Blasio, saying, “The only thing more dangerous than Judge Scheindlin’s behavior is Bill de Blasio’s naive public safety approach.”
“The next mayor absolutely must continue this appeal,” said Lhota in a statement.
According to the proposed appeal schedule filed by the city, the case will continue into the next mayoral administration.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which brought the class action lawsuit Floyd v. the City of New York, accused the city of surreptitiously undermining Scheindlin’s credibility.
“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,” stated CCR in a press release. The organization also said that Sheindlin is “deeply steeped in the issues for the last 14 years” and the city’s undermining her decision is “troubling and unprecedented.”
The stop-and-frisk tactic has been criticized by a number of civil rights advocates, including the New York Civil Liberties Union.
“We expect the next mayoral administration to make reforming stop-and-frisk a top priority,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement.
Some city council members have also advocated for stop-and-frisk reform, notably Jumaane Williams. Though he said in a statement that the decision would continue to cause confusion about stop and frisk among New Yorkers, he took a confident stance on any future ruling.
“While this stay is frustrating, when the court hears the merits of the case again, there is no doubt that we will win again,” said Williams.
Kristen Meriwether, Nicholas Zifcak, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.