A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked pending changes to the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program. It also removed the judge from the case.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled the remedies ordered by Judge Shira Scheindlin will be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal by the city. In August, she found the police had been violating the Constitution in the way it carried out stops.
The appeals court said Judge Scheindlin needed to be removed from the case because she "ran afoul" of the code of conduct for U.S. judges. NYU Law professor Stephen Gillers, who has written extensively on judicial ethics, said removals of federal district judges from cases happens only about a half dozen times a year, nationwide.
"The court apparently believed she did more than simply passively receive the case," said Gillers. "She tried to get it because she wanted it and you're not supposed to want it."
The appeals court heard arguments Tuesday on the city's request for a stay to block Schindlin's remedial orders, pending an appeal. The three member panel voted unanimously to grant the stay.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said it plans to appeal the decision and noted the ruling does not overturn the initial ruling that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk violated the 4th and 14th amendments of the Constitution.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the stop-and-frisk regime is unconstitutional and out of control," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement. "Just ask any black or brown New Yorker."
But Michael Cordozo with the city's Corporation Counsel said in a statement that the appeal's court ruling means the issue of constitutionality is far from decided.
"That question will now receive a fresh and independent both by the appeals court and then, if necessary, by a different trial court judge," said Cardozo.
The head of the police officers' union cheered Thursday's appellate court decision to remove Sheindlin from the case. In a statement, Patrick Lynch, President of the Police Benevolent Association said: “We salute the judges who made this courageous decision to remove an obviously biased judge from this case."
Oral arguments for the appeal are expected in March.
With The Associated Press.
To hear WNYC's Kathleen Horan discuss the court decision with host Amy Eddings, click the play button above.