CIVIC CENTER — A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked sweeping changes to the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactic and removed the judge who imposed them from the case saying her ruling "ran afoul" of the code of conduct for U.S. Judges.
Judge Shira Scheindlin, 67, ruled that the NYPD stopped and frisked millions of people without reasonable suspicion, resulting in an unconstitutional violation of their civil rights.
She also ordered a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD, among other remedies including equipping police officers with cameras to record their encounters during stop-and-frisks.
These remedies, which were set to go into effect, will now be halted pending the appeal process.
The three-judge federal appeals court found that "the appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation was compromised" by Scheindlin, both while on the bench and in "a series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court," according to the order released Thursday.
The ruling is a major victory for the Bloomberg administration, which is appealing the decision and the remedies ordered by Scheindlin.
"We could not be more pleased with the Court's findings," said the city's top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo, in a statement. "This ruling not only ensures that the remedies ordered by the District Court — which we believe were unjustified and deeply problematic — will be put on hold during our appeal, but it stays the liability decision on the Police Department’s compliance with the Constitution.
"In short, the ruling of unconstitutional practices is no longer operative, and that question will now receive a fresh and independent look both by the appeals court and then, if necessary, by a different trial court judge."
The Center for Constitutional Justice, whose lawyers represented the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement that it was "dismayed" by the stay order and "shocked" by the reassignment of Scheindlin.
"The City carried out a whisper campaign against Judge Scheindlin but never once raised any legal claims of bias, even in its papers to the Court of Appeals," the statement said. "That, unprompted, they should reassign the case from a judge deeply steeped in the issues for the last 14 years, who gave the City every opportunity to defend itself in the course of this litigation, is troubling and unprecedented."
The New York Civil Liberties Union said in a separate statement that it would appeal the stay of the remedies to the new district judge that gets assigned the case.
"There is overwhelming evidence that the stop-and-frisk regime is unconstitutional and out of control — just ask any black or brown New Yorker," NYCLU's statement said.
Mayoral frotrunner Bill de Blasio said in a statement that he was "extremely disappointed" by the 2nd Circuit's decision.
"We shouldn't have to wait for reforms that both keep our communities safe and obey the Constitution," de Blasio said. "We have to end the overuse of stop-and-frisk — and any delay only means a continued and unnecessary rift between our police and the people they protect."