Stop-and-Frisk Judge Shira Scheindlin Rebuked as Appeals Court Reverses Case

Circuit Court Says Jurist 'Ran Afoul' of Code of Conduct

By Reuters

Published October 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A U.S. appeals court froze court-ordered reforms to the New York City Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program and removed the judge who found the police tactic unconstitutional because she “ran afoul” of the judicial code of conduct.

Shira Scheindlin
Shira Scheindlin

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was at least a temporary victory for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD, who have argued that stopping, questioning and frisking suspicious people has led to a steep decline in crime rates.

The three-judge panel said its ruling should have no impact on the merits of the case, but was a rebuke of Scheindlin, who became a hero of civil rights and civil liberties groups when, in August, she struck down parts of stop-and-frisk.

The court’s removal of U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case was an exceedingly rare action and an indication of how displeased the judges were with her.

The judges faulted Scheindlin for failing to appear impartial by making public statements about the case and by granting media interviews in which she answered critics of her ruling.

“We could not be more pleased with the Court’s findings,” said Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, the city’s chief attorney, who called Scheindlin’s ruling “unjustified and deeply problematic.”

The case “will now receive a fresh and independent look both by the appeals court and then, if necessary, by a different trial court judge,” Cardozo said.

As part of her ruling, Scheindlin ordered a federal monitor to oversee changes to NYPD practices.

Her ruling was widely celebrated by racial minorities in New York who complained that innocent people were being caught up in the police sweeps.

It also played a role in the campaign for mayor of New York City in which candidate Bill de Blasio, who won the Democratic nomination and became the front-runner for next Tuesday’s election, blasted stop-and-frisk as unfair.

The appeals court also took issue with how Scheindlin interacted with lawyers in a December 2007 hearing while she presided over another stop-and-frisk lawsuit involving some of the same lawyers.

“If you got proof of inappropriate racial profiling in a good constitutional case, why don’t you bring a lawsuit?” Scheindlin asked. “What 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.”

She said the lawyers could mark it as “related,” ensuring that it would be assigned to her docket rather than to another judge at random.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said it would appeal the ruling, and the Center for Constitutional Rights called the reassigning of the case “troubling and unprecedented.”

De Blasio, who said stop-and-frisk was evidence of “two New Yorks” - one for the privileged elite and another for the poor and disadvantaged - said he was “extremely disappointed in today’s decision.”

“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,” de Blasio said.

Police supporters applauded the ruling.

“That’s great news,” said former NYPD Commissioner Howard Safir. “Stop-and-frisk is a legal tactic, not a policy. What police are doing are stopping people based on victims’ descriptions” of perpetrators.

Heather MacDonald, author of the book “Are Cops Racist?” and a vigorous defender of the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk, also celebrated the ruling but said it was no indication the appeals court would overturn Scheindlin’s ruling.

“Appellate judges tend to take a deferential stance towards trial judges’ fact-finding, and that’s what a lot of this case hangs on,” Mac Donald said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.