NEW YORK – Attorneys for New York City asked a federal appeals court Saturday to vacate a judge's orders that require the police department to change its stop-and-frisk practice that critics argue unfairly targets minorities.
The city said in filings with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin's orders this summer should be thrown out largely for the same reasons a three-judge panel of the appeals court gave in staying her decision on Oct. 31, pending an appeal.
The panel stayed her order and removed her from the case, saying she misapplied a related case ruling that allowed her to take the stop-and-frisk case and gave media interviews during the trial, calling her impartiality into question.
"At a minimum, the District Court's misconduct makes it reasonable to question the impartiality of the District Court Orders, and at a maximum represents a violation of Appellant's Due Process rights to a neutral arbiter and to present a defense," the filings said. "In either case, the District Court Orders must be vacated."
Scheindlin ruled in August that the city violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of blacks and Hispanics by disproportionally stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking them. She assigned a monitor to help the New York Police Department change its policy and training programs regarding the tactic.
An attorney for Scheindlin last week asked the three-judge panel to reconsider its unusual step of ordering her off the case or pass the issue along to the full circuit.
Advocates for changing stop and frisk blistered at the city's request to vacate the judge's orders Saturday.
"Voters overwhelmingly rejected (Mayor Michael) Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk policy by choosing a mayor committed to reforming stop-and-frisk, so fighting reform now not only adds injury to those subjected to the policy but is a waste of taxpayer money and counterproductive to public safety," said Joo-Hyun Kan, a spokeswoman for Communities United for Police Reform.
Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio has said he would drop the city's appeal of Scheindlin's ruling but he could also settle with those urging reforms, which would eliminate federal oversight.
Stop and frisk has been around for decades. To make a stop, police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred, a standard lower than the probable cause needed to justify an arrest. Only about 10 percent of the stops result in arrests or summonses, and weapons are found about 2 percent of the time.
But recorded stops increased dramatically under Bloomberg's administration to an all-time high in 2011 of 684,330, mostly of black and Hispanic men. A lawsuit was filed in 2004 by four minority men, who said they were targeted because of their races, and it became a class-action case.