A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Federal appeals court blocks NYPD stop-and-frisk changes

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Thursday blocked [order, PDF] changes to the New York City Police Department (NYPD) [official website] stop-and-frisk procedures. The ruling specifically denounced the decision of district court Judge Shira Scheindlin, who initially ordered the changes, stating that the judge, "ran afoul of the Code of Conduct of United States Judges." Scheindlin's original ruling [JURIST report] held that the stop-and-frisk procedures violated minorities' constitutional rights, stating that the procedures resulted in a "policy of indirect racial profiling." The changes mandated in Scheindlin's ruling included requiring an external attorney to monitor the NYPD's compliance with constitutional issues, requiring police officers to wear personal cameras monitoring their street activity, and holding community meeting for the public to comment on and request changes to the procedures. Controversy over the decision revolves largely around Scheindlin's conduct in the case rather than the substantive changes mandated in the opinion itself. The ruling indicates that Scheindlin improperly applied the related-case rule, which allows lawyers to direct related cases to the same judge, to encourage the filing of a civil rights lawsuit on the issue under her authority.

Criticism of NYPD's stop-and-frisk procedure revolves primarily [JURIST op-ed] around the relevant racial issues involved. Critics claim [JURIST op-ed] the procedures are unconstitutional because they unfairly target minorities, who are disproportionately selected for stops and searches. Other criticisms indicate [JURIST op-ed] that the procedure itself is unwieldy and ineffective, emphasizing quantity of searches over their quality and resulting in an unnecessary drain on department time and resources. In the period between 2004 and 2011 only 1.5 percent of the 2.3 million searches conducted revealed an illegal weapon. In September Scheindlin rejected [JURIST report] a motion by the City of New York to stay her order requiring a halt of the stop-and-frisk procedure. The motion directly followed her August ruling declaring the processes violated both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The process has continually fluctuated back and forth between motions preventing and allowing the procedure to continue. In February the judge granted [JURIST report] class action status to those challenging the procedure. That decision followed an order in January [JURIST report] allowing the searches to resume after a previous ruling had required them to stop.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.