NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court refused Wednesday to reconsider its order removing a judge from court cases challenging the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan had removed federal Judge Shira Scheindlin last month, saying she had misapplied a ruling that allowed her to preside over the stop-and-frisk cases and had made statements in media interviews that jeopardized the appearance of judicial objectivity.
Her attorney Burt Neuborne filed papers last week, asking the panel to reconsider the order and saying the appeals judges had offended due process by ousting her without letting her defend herself.
On Wednesday, the panel denied Neuborne’s request, saying it lacked a procedural basis.
“We know of no precedent suggesting that a district judge has standing before an appellate court to protest reassignment of a case,” the judges ruled.
The decision said “the cases were reassigned not because of any judicial misconduct or ethical lapse on the part of Judge Scheindlin — as to which we have expressly made no finding” — but solely because of conduct codes that said judges should not be part of a proceeding in which “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The judges also clarified that they didn’t find Scheindlin violated her ethical duty or engaged in any judicial misconduct.
“Frankly, if that had been the language in the first order, I doubt we would have been in court,” said Neuborne.
Scheindlin ruled in August that police officers sometimes carried out stop-and-frisk unconstitutionally by discriminating against minorities.
City lawyer Michael Cardozo said the ruling removing Scheindlin was correct.
“The Second Circuit clearly explained how the judge’s comments compromised the appearance of impartiality and required reassignment to a different district judge,” Cardozo said in a statement released Wednesday.
Stop and frisk is a tactic that lets police question people when there is reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred. It has been around for decades, but its use grew dramatically under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration to an all-time high in 2011 of 684,330 stops, mostly of black and Hispanic men.
Scheindlin concluded the city violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of blacks and Hispanics by disproportionately stopping, questioning and sometimes frisking them. She assigned a monitor to help the police department change its policy and training programs on the tactic.
After being removed, Scheindlin issued a statement saying she had properly presided over the cases because they were related to a previous case she had heard. She also consented to interviews under the condition that she wouldn’t comment on an ongoing case.
“And I did not,” she said.