Joseph A. Lombardo
In August of 2013, Judge Shira Scheindlin seemed to be in a comfortable position: she was presiding over a nationally talked-about case, and had successfully overturned a decades-old decision, ruling that stop-and-frisk was racist and unconstitutional. A declawed, heavily monitored version of stop-and-frisk was set for approval, and public opinion seemed high. But in October, just a few months later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit removed Scheindlin from the case — and granted a stay on her decision.
U.S. Appeals Court Blocks Scheindlin’s Stop-and-Frisk Ruling
As the old saying goes, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Many New Yorkers were happy with Scheindlin’s verdict — the countless images of marches and protests to end racist police tactics attest to that better than any poll ever could. But many others — notably then-Mayor Bloomberg himself — were anything but pleased. Concerned with the outcome, Bloomberg took the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals. In a decision that’s continuing to send shockwaves through the legal community and the general population, the Court sided with Bloomberg and granted a stay on Scheindlin’s ruling.
Not only has a stay been granted, Scheindlin herself has been completely removed from the case. Regarding the removal — an unusual plot-twist in the courtroom — the U.S. Court of Appeals cited Scheindlin’s granting of interviews with the media while the case was still pending. According to the Court, Scheindlin “ran afoul” of proper judicial conduct, by failing to preserve the “appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation.”
Raymond Kelly, Police Commissioner of the NYPD, says, “I have always been, and I haven’t been alone, concerned about the partiality of Judge Scheindlin and we look forward to the examination of this case — a fair and impartial review of this case based on the merits.” Kelly insists that “our tactics and strategies have worked.” Michael Cardozo, Corporation Counsel for New York City, said, “We could not be more pleased with the court’s findings,” going on to describe Scheindlin’s verdict as “unjustified and deeply problematic.”
Scheindlin calls criticisms of her conduct “below the belt.”
NYC’s New Mayor Urged to Withdraw the Appeal
But while bad blood between Scheindlin and her opponents continues to boil, a new element of drama has crept into the mix: the 2013 mayoral election.
It seems as though Bloomberg pushed for his changes just in time. On November 5th, the city elected a new mayor — which opens the door for another exhausting round of stays, appeals, rulings, reversals, attacks, and counterattacks. Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, urges the new mayor to reexamine — and undo — his predecessor’s actions. Patel’s words leave little room for misinterpretation: “The next mayor should consider withdrawing the appeal.”
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