NEW YORK — A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a judge’s ruling that found the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy discriminated against minorities, and it took the unusual step of removing her from the case, saying interviews she gave during the trial called her impartiality into question.
The city applauded the appeals court’s decision. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who was shouted down over the tactic by students during a speech at Brown University this week, said he was pleased by it.
“This is indeed an important decision for all New Yorkers and for the men and women of the New York City police department who work very hard day in and day out to keep this city safe,” he said.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the ruling by U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin will be on hold pending the outcome of an appeal by the city. But it may be a nonissue after next week’s mayoral election: Democrat Bill de Blasio, who’s leading in polls, has said he would drop objections to the ruling, which calls for major changes to the police tactic.
The judge decided in August 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 police department change its policy and training programs on the tactic.
The three-judge panel heard arguments Tuesday on whether to put the ruling on temporary hold while the city appeals the judge’s decision. It did not change the deadline for the appeal and said it expected arguments in March, well after the new mayor takes office.
The panel said Scheindlin needed to be removed because she ran afoul of the code of conduct for U.S. judges by misapplying a ruling that allowed her to take the case and by giving media interviews during the trial.
Scheindlin said in a statement later she consented to the interviews under the condition she wouldn’t comment on the ongoing case.
She said some reporters used quotes from written opinions that gave the appearance she had commented on the case but “a careful reading of each interview will reveal that no such comments were made.”