The Bloomberg administration has lost an eleventh hour attempt to nullify a landmark ruling against the NYPD's controversial stop & frisk program. Today's ruling [pdf] by the three-judge US Court of Appeals panel declines to toss out the decision from federal judge Shira Scheindlin, who ruled in August that the NYPD's use of stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional. Last month, the same appeals court froze implementation of Scheindlin's ruling pending an appeal, and took the unusual step of removing her from the case because of alleged bias and misconduct.
Lawyers for the City saw the panel's rebuke of Scheindlin as an opportunity to press for her ruling to be vacated completely, and although the City's previous appeal made no allegations of judicial misconduct, the follow-up motion homed in on Scheindlin's alleged bias.
In today's decision, the Appeals panel proved unwilling to completely toss out Scheindlin's ruling. Instead, the panel signaled that City lawyers could make their arguments during the appeal trial next year, which isn't going to happen, because Mayor-elect de Blasio is expected to drop the City's appeal and turn Rikers Island into a holistic yoga center.
In response to the ruling, the City's top lawyer, Michael A. Cardozo, said, "Today's ruling not only confirms that Judge Scheindlin is removed from the case, but it also rejects her lawyer's contention that the court lacked relevant information when issuing that ruling. The Second Circuit also made it clear that we could raise the issue of vacating her ruling when the appeal is heard. The City is moving ahead full speed with its appeal, and we maintain that the City's police force has acted lawfully in its application of stop, question and frisk."
Christopher Dunn, the NYCLU’s associate legal director, had a somewhat different take: "This marks the end of the Bloomberg administration’s unseemly effort to short-circuit the appeals process and undo the district court’s rulings before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes office. Hopefully, the legal theatrics will now end and we can all go back to the important task of reforming stop-and-frisk."