Judges Question City’s ‘Glacial Pace’ in Stop-and-Frisk Appeal

October 30, 2013 Last Updated: October 31, 2013

NEW YORK—At a court hearing Tuesday, judges questioned the sincerity of the city’s professed urgency to halt the reform of its police department’s stop-and-frisk policing tactic.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled on Aug. 12 that stop and frisk is unconstitutional and must be reformed. The city’s appeal to that decision, filed four days later, has been working its way toward a court hearing to halt the decision since then.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments by the city for its request for a stay of the federal court’s ruling.

The city “has been castigating the district court, while pursuing the case at a glacial pace,” said Judge José Cabranes and accused the city of saying one thing publicly, but dragging its feet in addressing the ruling.

Cabranes implied that if the city were sincerely concerned about the harm Judge Scheindlin’s ruling would cause the police force and the city, it should have moved more quickly.

“If you had acted with real urgency you could have been here a long time ago,” Cabranes said.

If the city’s schedule for the case had been granted, the appeal request would not have been resolved until March 2014.

Legal representatives for the city offered little explanation about the perceived contradiction in the speed of their actions versus their stated urgency to halt Scheindlin’s ruling.

One senior attorney with the city’s corporation counsel, Celeste Koeleveld, said that the plaintiff in the case, Lloyd v. the City of New York, wanted more time. Koeleveld disagreed with the court’s assessment that the city had moved too slowly in a case they consider urgent. The city’s legal team has more than 25,000 pages of related case files.

Koeleveld also repeatedly called the Aug. 12 ruling “deeply” and “seriously flawed.” The attorney argued that the ruling will hamper policing efforts by causing confusion among rank-and-file police officers.

Stop-and-Frisk Reforms

Among the reforms to the city’s stop-and-frisk practices, in August Scheindlin ordered a court-appointed monitor. New York City-based trial attorney Peter Zimroth was later appointed to that position. His role is intended to ensure that the city complies with stop-and-frisk reforms.

Nicholas Turner, president and director of the VERA Institute of Justice, was also named as a facilitator. Turner’s role is to help the related parties sit down and engage in a “community-based remedial process.” The Academic Advisory Council made up of professors from area law schools was also appointed.

“[This decision] reaches into every aspect of policing,” said Koeleveld. She added that the city believes Judge Scheindlin has a “novel concept” of racial profiling that erroneously relies on the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments.

Those amendments were the basis for Scheindlin’s ruling on the police department’s stop-and-risk policy.

The city was in court to prove that Scheindlin’s ruling would cause irreparable harm. Proof of that harm should be the basis for legal grounds to halt the district court’s ruling, said the city’s attorney, Jonathan Moore.

So far there has been little change to policing by the NYPD, though stop-and-frisk numbers have gone down, according to the city. The court-ordered mediator has met with the police department at least once, but no concrete reforms have been announced.

The city appealed the ruling on Aug. 16 and also asked the court to stay the fixes mandated by Scheindlin. The plaintiffs also filed a legal brief opposing the city’s request for the court to halt the program changes.