Since New York's "50-a" law shielding police disciplinary records from the public was repealed last June, police unions have stopped the City from releasing the documents through a series of appeals. On Tuesday morning, a federal appellate court rejected the unions' arguments, effectively making the documents available to all New Yorkers.

Attorneys for the unions had made a raft of arguments to stop the release of the disciplinary records, particularly those that had not been substantiated or finalized: that they constituted an invasion of privacy, endangered the lives of the police and hurt their employment prospects, and that they violated the officers' collective bargaining rights.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed all these arguments, and cited the decisions of the lower courts, who were also unpersuaded by the unions.

"We note again that many other States make similar misconduct records at least partially available to the public without any evidence of a resulting increase of danger to police officers," the Second Circuit wrote in their 18-page ruling. "Moreover, to the extent that this claim implicates records that must be disclosed under [New York's] Freedom of Information Law, the NYPD cannot bargain away its disclosure obligations."

Molly Biklen, the deputy legal director for The New York Civil Liberties Union, which had been litigating for the release of the records alongside the City's Law Department, called the court's opinion "a complete rejection of the union's claims."

The unions are not taking immediate steps to appeal the ruling, according to a statement from their spokesperson, Hank Sheinkopf, who added that they are "reviewing options."

“Today’s ruling does not end our fight to protect our members’ safety and due process rights,"  Sheinkopf said. "The FOIL law provides exemptions that allow public employers to protect employees’ safety and privacy. We will continue to fight to ensure that New York City applies those exemptions to our members fairly and consistently, as they do for other public employees. Politics must not be allowed to relegate firefighters, police officers and corrections officers to second-class status.”

Over the summer, the NYCLU published their own tranche of Civilian Complaint Review Board documents obtained in the narrow window before the unions filed their appeals. But the repeal of the law, known as 50-a, means that internal NYPD disciplinary records, minus any personal information like home addresses, are also public. (The repeal of 50-a does not apply to "technical infractions" for a strictly defined set of administrative departmental rules that do not involve the public.)

"What I think that this ruling shows is that it is now incumbent on the city to make good on their word and release the documents in accord with the repeal of 50-a," Biklen said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised New Yorkers in June that his administration would publish all the applicable NYPD disciplinary records in a public database.

"We're going to start a massive effort to make public information regarding to police discipline. And this information will move very quickly and ultimately all of it will be available online,” de Blasio said on June 17th.

The Mayor's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The rule of law prevailed today. The city’s planned release of these records was consistent with the law and the enhanced transparency the legislature intended," the Law Department said in a statement. (The NYPD referred a request of comment to the Law Department.)

It is still unclear when the de Blasio administration will make the disciplinary records easily accessible to the general public.

“Police unions have been trying to undermine and overturn the legislature and the public will that led to the repeal of 50-a because they want to preserve police impunity and shield abusive officers from consequences," said Joo-Hyun Kang, the director of Communities United for Police Reform, one of the groups fighting for the release of the records. "Today’s decision from the Second Circuit affirms that the public has the right to know when police brutalize or sexually harass New Yorkers and escape discipline, in spite of police unions’ baseless claims and fearmongering."

[UPDATE / 4:57 p.m.] "Good riddance to 50-A," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement released on Tuesday afternoon. "We look forward to releasing this data and will seek clarity from the court regarding when these records can be released.”

According to the Law Department, the Second Circuit's decision means the records can be released today.