The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently granted the City's request for a delay in the police reforms mandated by a decision that ruled the NYPD's use of stop and frisk as unconstitutional. The judges for the Second Circuit also removed the federal district court judge who issued the ruling, Judge Shira Scheindlin, from the case, citing her bias against the City. What does this mean for the stop and frisk reforms that Judge Scheindlin ordered? And what will happen if a mayor de Blasio orders the City to drop its appeal?

Was Judge Scheindlin biased?

The 2nd Circuit cited proof of Scheindlin's bias in articles published by the AP, the New York Times, and The New Yorker. "I’m independent. I believe in the Constitution. I believe in the Bill of Rights," Scheindlin told The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin. "These issues come up, and I take them quite seriously. I’m not afraid to rule against the government.” She told the AP that comments made by NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg disparaging her character were "below the belt." Yet she never specifically commented on the stop and frisk trial at hand.

"Some of the reporters used quotes from written opinions in Floyd that gave the appearance that I had commented on the case," Scheindlin wrote in a statement after yesterday's ruling. "However, a careful reading of each interview will reveal that no such comments were made."

The Second Circuit also cited comments made by Scheindlin during a 2007 case on racial profiling brought against the NYPD, in which she instructed the plaintiffs in the case to bring a separate suit, a suit that would eventually become the landmark stop and frisk case, Floyd, et al. v. City of New York.

"Given the daily practice of the federal courts, lawyers and judges have these exchanges all the time," says Andrew Celli, Jr., a civil rights attorney who served as the head of the state civil rights bureau in the office of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. "It creates a sense of judicial economy."

Gideon Oliver, a civil rights attorney and former president of the NLG-NYC, agrees. "It's the sort of thing federal judges do all the time as part of their job. Judges accept cases as related in order to increase the efficiency of the judicial process."

How does Judge Scheindlin's removal affect the case? How common is it to remove a judge like this?

"The case will be reassigned to a different judge for the purposes of implementing the Second Circuit's stay and whatever else comes down the road after the appeals court has decided the City's appeal of stop and frisk on the merits," Oliver says, "But the appeals court has to rule on the merits."

Celli adds, "Judge Scheindlin is an incredibly hard working and highly respected judge. It's extraordinary to remove a judge who has been working fives years, sat through nine weeks of trial, and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents on a single case."

Jeffrey Toobin, the author of The New Yorker piece, called Scheindlin's removal, "Preposterous."

Who will choose the new judge?

"In the Southern District they have what's called The Wheel," Celli says. "It looks like a giant wooden BINGO barrel. It's a foot wide, and about five inches tall with a crank on the side, with little tiny discs inside. On those discs are the names of all the judges. They roll the barrel and pull out a name."

Does this overrule Judge Scheindlin's ruling that stop and frisk is unconstitutional?

No. "[The stay] just stops any action or inaction the City or the lower court might take," Oliver says. "It's a freeze." Meaning that the meetings Judge Scheindlin ordered between the parties involved—the facilitator, the NYPD, etc.—won't happen.

That the Second Circuit included Judge Scheindlin's ruling itself in their order, and not just her recommendations, is "symbolically important," Celli says, "But I don't understand the purpose of it. It's puzzling."

What happens if de Blasio is elected and he tells the City to drop the appeal of the stop and frisk ruling?

"It could essentially leave [Scheindlin's original ruling] in place," Oliver says.

Celli agrees, up to a point: "In theory, her decision will remain in place. But it's all going to be under a new judge, so there's all kinds of opportunity for mischief to be made." That "mischief" could mean that the police unions, the PBA and the Sergeants Benevolent Association, who have been rigorously opposing the stop and frisk decision, would be allowed to intervene and challenge the case on the merits again in front of a new judge. "If intervention is granted to them, that would be extraordinary."

A new police commissioner might also affect the final outcome. "That's going to be an incredibly important inflection point," Celli says. "Leadership means a lot to the NYPD and the stakeholders here. If the unions believe that the new commissioner will work with them, they may not cause mischief. That's really the unknown."

The NYCLU said that it's appealing this stay—what does THAT mean?

If the appeal of the stay is heard, then the Second Circuit meets en banc. All 22 judges meet to decide the merits of the appeal. "Everything that's happened in this case has been extraordinary," Celli says. "You had the first liability finding against an entire police department in U.S. history; first imposition of a federal monitor over any police department over that department's objection in U.S. history; the stay is extraordinary, the supplanting of a judge is extraordinary, so an en banc hearing would fit the pattern. It would be extraordinary."