Yesterday the Second Circuit blocked important restrictions on New York’s stop and frisk law mandated by trial court judge Shira Scheindlin. The case will be returned to the District Court for implementation and appeals, but Judge Scheindlin, a champion in the eyes of the policy’s opponents, has been barred from continued involvement due to her supposed partiality. A great irony is that the defendants, the City of New York, never asked the Second Circuit to take action against Scheindlin. Instead, the appellate court acted sua sponte – that is, the Court acted on its own accord to tackle this question (thank you, seven weeks of law school). So, short story, three judges overstepped their usual role to punish another judge for supposedly overstepping her usual role.
So, what happens next?
Gothamist has a helpful FAQ on how the appellate decision will affect New York’s police policies and practices going forward. While we know how the law will look in the very short term, some analysis is necessarily speculative given the upcoming mayoral transition: we don’t know exactly what Democratic nominee and presumptive winner Bill de Blasio will do or who he’ll appoint to key positions. Christopher Robbins writes:
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 (ruling stop and frisk unconstitutional)] in place,” [attorney Gideon] Oliver says.
[Civil rights attorney Andrew] Celli [Jr.] 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.”
You can, and should, read the whole piece here.
Alexandra Brodsky is a law student by day and law student by night.