That whooshing sound you just heard are eyebrows shooting to hairlines on reporters’ heads all over the city. That’s because the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has just blocked Judge Shira Scheindlin’s order for the NYPD to make significant changes to its stop-and-frisk policy, and ordered the judge removed from case, saying that she violated the code of conduct governing the behavior of sitting judges.
On August 12, Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD had violated the constitutional rights of 19 New Yorkers who were stopped and frisked, because they were stopped “without a legal basis,” violating the Fourth Amendment, and targeted because of their race, violating the Fourteenth. She ordered that an independent monitor be created to oversee the department, and ruled that the city had “acted with deliberate indifference to constitutional deprivations caused by its employees,” i.e. the police. Mayor Bloomberg promptly appealed the ruling.
But today’s brief ruling from Second Circuit Judges John M. Walker, Jose A. Cabranes, and Barrington D. Parker states that Scheindlin “ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges,” in part because she granted a series of media interviews about the case. Scheindlin also told the plaintiffs in a different stop-and-frisk lawsuit, Daniels v. City of New York, “”[I]f you got proof of inappropriate racial profiling in a good constitutional case, why don’t you bring a lawsuit? You can certainly mark it as related,” and, “[W]hat I am trying to say, I am sure I am going to get in trouble for saying it, for $65 you can bring that lawsuit.” The following month, the circuit judges say, “two of the attorney groups working on behalf of plaintiffs in Daniels” filed the Floyd suit. Scheindlin’s suggestion from the bench, they ruled, was an “improper application” of the related case rule. Both the interviews and the suggestion from the bench, they say, created a situation “in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
The case will be sent to a different district judge, who will be chosen randomly. In the meantime, all of the proceedings in the case will be brought to a halt, including the implementation of that independent monitor for the NYPD.
Update, 5:10 p.m.: The NYCLU has announced they will appeal the Second Circuit’s decision. “The NYCLU is appealing today’s decision,” Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in the group’s statement. “There is overwhelming evidence that the stop-and-frisk regime is unconstitutional and out of control — just ask any black or brown New Yorker. We expect the next mayoral administration to make reforming stop-and-frisk a top priority, and we are confident New York City will soon see a day when all New Yorkers’ basic rights are protected and respected.”
The full ruling is on the following page.
Send your story tips to the author, Anna Merlan.