A federal appeals court halted implementation Thursday of the landmark ruling that invalidated parts of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program. After months of testimony from more than 100 witnesses in a class action challenge, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin held in August that the police department engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling, and ordered federal oversight.
The appeals court did not rule on the merits of the case, but said the ruling would remain on hold while it reviewed the appeal in the case. Significantly, the court also removed Scheindlin from the case, finding that she had violated ethics rules by suggesting to lawyers that this sort of lawsuit be filed, and speaking publicly to the media about the case.
Scheindlin authored an exhaustive opinion that found the NYPD effectively set quotas for stops and arrests, called black and Hispanic men “the right people” for the purpose of stops, that the NYPD disproportionately stopped young blacks and Latinos even when accounting for crime statistics, and that even the NYPD’s low success rate — 6 percent — is likely inflated by questionable arrests for marijuana.
Another judge will handle the case going forward, which will become more significant if the appeals court overturns the ruling and remands it to the district court for review.
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the plaintiffs in this case, the appeals panel opted to remove Judge Scheindlin even though the City of New York did not request that they do so, nor raise “any claims of legal bias” by Scheindlin.