New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has initiated the most aggressive attempt yet to discredit Judge Shira Scheindlin’s ruling that the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) “stop-and-frisk” method is unconstitutional. Bloomberg’s administration has until Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes office in January to try to invalidate Scheindlin’s ruling.
Last month, an appeals panel removed Scheindlin from the case after finding that she violated ethics rules. Now the city is asking a Court of Appeals to annul her decision that stop-and-frisk is a form of racial profiling targeting African-American and Hispanic New Yorkers and should undergo extensive reform.
Scheindlin’s ruling would have required an inspector general position within the NYPD to provide a “check” to the mayor’s policy, as well as allowed New Yorkers to sue the NYPD for discriminatory targeting.
In August, Scheindlin said that the NYPD “adopted a policy of ‘indirect racial profiling’… resulting in the disproportionate discriminatory stopping of tens of thousands of blacks and Hispanics.” The practice allows New York police to stop and search anyone that they suspect of having the intention to commit a crime.
Mayor Bloomberg has defended the controversial practice, calling it “an essential part of the NYPD’s work.” A 2012 New York analysis of crime data found that “skyrocketing numbers” of stop-and-frisks had “little impact” on gun violence or the number of people shot in New York City. In fact, between 2009 and 2011, the number of New Yorkers that were shot increased, even as stop-and-frisk became more prevalent.
As soon as Scheindlin issued her decision, Bloomberg said the city would appeal the ruling. He accused Scheindlin of not giving the city “a fair trial.” Last month, a federal appeals court put the stop-and-frisk ruling on hold as a result of the city’s appeal, and took the extraordinary step of removing Judge Scheindlin. According to ThinkProgress,
The slight against U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin surprised many – city lawyers hadn’t even requested that Scheindlin be removed or raised ethical objections in the case. And legal scholars have questioned the rare and extraordinary move to remove Scheindlin based on comments to reporters and lawyers that appear in dispute, without a hearing or arguments from either party.
According to the city, Scheindlin purportedly steered the litigation to her courtroom and discussed the case with reporters while the case was still pending. In a press release, Scheindlin responded to the city’s allegations against her and denied any wrongdoing.
Burt Neuborne, an attorney defending Scheindlin before the appeals court, called the attempts to discredit her “judicial McCarthyism.” “I never thought I would see the corporation counsel of the City of New York stoop to such tactics,” he told the New York Times. “And, for what? Because the NYPD’s feelings are hurt? That’s the only reason the city gives for this extraordinary attack on the judge.”
The city’s most recent motion argues that Scheindlin’s 200-page ruling on stop-and-frisk should be vacated in its entirety, before the court reviews briefs or oral arguments this spring. “The city’s filing, which came shortly after midnight [on Friday], seemed aimed in part at ensuring that Judge Scheindlin’s rulings disappeared before Mr. Bloomberg leaves office, and did not detract from his legacy,” according to the Times.
Mayor-elect de Blasio promised to withdraw the Bloomberg administration’s appeal if he was elected. “I’ve said from the beginning, if the Bloomberg administration had paid attention to the concerns of communities all over New York City and had paid attention to Judge Scheindlin’s concerns, we would have had action a year or two ago, and there never would have been a court order, and there never would have been a monitor,” de Blasio told the Times.
In August, students from the Columbia University School of Journalism created a set of maps, using geolocation data from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), to provide a visual representation of New York police officers’ 2012 stops. The maps are color-coded by race and depict the discriminatory nature of the stop-and-frisk practice.
Data from the NYCLU found that of 532,911 police stops conducted last year, 89 percent were “totally innocent.” Of those, 55 percent of individuals stopped were African-American, 32 percent were Hispanic, and 10 percent were white. The maps also show that Brooklyn and Bronx neighborhoods had more police stops than others.