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Federal judge grants class action status to challenge of NYPD 'stop-and-frisk' policy

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Monday granted class action status [opinion, PDF] to a lawsuit brought to stop the New York Police Department (NYPD) [official website] from continuing its "stop-and-frisk" practice outside of apartment buildings in the Bronx. In the first part of her legal analysis, Judge Shira Scheindlin found that the plaintiffs, all of whom are African-American and Latino residents of New York City, possess proper standing for such injunctive relief under Article III of the US Constitution [texts] because the "frequency of alleged injuries inflicted by the practice...creates a likelihood of future injury sufficient to address standing concerns." She added that the risk of future injury to the plaintiffs from the stop-and-frisk program is "real and immediate." In her lengthier second legal analysis, Judge Scheindlin determined that the plaintiffs met all prerequisites of a class action lawsuit under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [text]. In particular, she concluded that the claims alleged were common and typical, numerous, adequate, and ascertainable. The lawsuit itself [complaint, PDF] challenges the constitutionality of "Operation Clean Halls," which is part of the NYPD's broader "stop-and-frisk" policy that allows police to patrol private apartments all over New York City.

Last month Scheindlin lifted an order [JURIST report] that previously required the NYPD to stop using its "stop-and-frisk" practice. There, the judge reasoned that complying with the former order would place an undue burden on the NYPD to train thousands of officers and their supervisors. Two weeks prior Scheindlin declared the "stop-and-frisk" policy unconstitutional [JURIST report] on grounds that it violates the protection against unreasonable search and seizures of the Fourth Amendment [text; Cornell LII backgrounder]. There, she reasoned that officers were not first meeting their requirement of developing a reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk supposed trespassers. Scheindlin's original decision was the first federal ruling to find that the "stop-and-frisk" practice is unconstitutional, though the NYPD has recently received a great deal of scrutiny for various allegations of misconduct. In July, a report issued by a coalition of legal rights organizations said that the NYPD used excessive force and violated the rights of protesters [JURIST report] who participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. A month prior, a Muslim rights group filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in New Jersey seeking to end the department's controversial surveillance program, which allegedly targets individuals based on religious affiliation. In May, following an investigation into the NYPD's surveillance program, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa concluded that it did not violate the Constitution. In March, NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly fervently denied [speech; press release] that the surveillance programs were unconstitutional.

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