On Thursday, a federal appeals court suspended an August ruling that halted the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, the lower court judge, “ran afoul” of judicial ethics. The court pulled her from the case, citing an “appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation.”
The appeals court said Scheindlin violated the Code of Conduct for United States Judges by failing to “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities” and by failing to disqualify herself “in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned” because she spoke about her personal beliefs on the issue. She also defended her decision in media interviews with the New York Law Journal, The Associated Press and The New Yorker and in public statements. Scheindlin was involved in related cases, which also contributed to the higher court’s decision:
Scheindlin’s long-standing battle with the NYPD was thoroughly documented by The New Yorker earlier this year. Her decision in the case that found stop-and-frisk to be unconstitutional (Floyd, et. al. vs. City of New York) was linked, even before the case began, to another case in which she’d already found against the police. (source)In August, Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy violates both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by subjecting innocent people to searches without any evidence or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
She said the policy unlawfully targets blacks and Latinos. Scheindlin found that police made at least 200,000 stops from 2004 to June 2012 without reasonable suspicion. She also found evidence of racial profiling, violating plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment rights guaranteeing equal protection.
NYPD officers have carried out nearly 5 million such searches in the last decade and overwhelmingly targeted young black and Latino men. Police are allowed to stop and search people based on suspicious behavior, but the judge ruled that New York’s policy went beyond the bounds of a legal stop. Documentation from police stops showed that the top reason given for stopping a suspect was “furtive movements”, which can mean anything from fidgeting, changing directions, walking a certain way, reaching in a pocket, or looking over one’s shoulder.
“If officers believe that the behavior described above constitutes furtive movement that justifies a stop, then it is no surprise that stops so rarely produce evidence of criminal activity,” Judge Scheindlin wrote.Close to 90 percent of those stopped were never arrested or even given a ticket.
Scheindlin did not order an end to stop and frisk, but called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms, including the use of body-worn cameras for some patrol officers. She appointed attorney Peter L. Zimroth as a monitor to ensure the Police Department’s compliance with the United States Constitution.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was furious with Scheindlin’s decision:
Think about this judge on stop-and-frisk. What does she know about policing? Absolutely zero. Your safety and the safety of your kids is now in the hands of some woman who does not have the expertise to do it.For now, Mayor Bloomberg has gotten his way. He’s the outgoing mayor, though, and Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio, who has made his opposition to stop-and-frisk a major campaign issue, is expected to win on Tuesday.
The panel set a schedule for the appeals process that extends into 2014. What will happen next remains to be seen.
Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”