A federal appeals court blocked a ruling curtailing the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” program, an order the Wall Street Journal says “could rattle the New York City political landscape and reverberate in law-enforcement agencies nationwide.” A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit panel voted 3-0 to halt a U.S. District Court ruling that ordered a monitor to oversee the stop-and-frisk policy and alter a related training program. The court order delays implementation of the lower court decision until the appeals court can rule on the entire case.
In the stop-and-frisk program, the NYPD routinely stopped passersby, especially in high-crime neighborhoods, to pat them down for weapons even when there was limited reason to suspect wrongdoing. The technique has been criticized for disproportionately targeting blacks and Hispanics in poor areas. In practical terms, yesterday’s order means the NYPD can continue the stop-and-frisk practice until the higher court rules on the appeal. In an unusual move, the court offered a withering assessment of U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin and removed her from the case, saying her appearance of impartiality had been “compromised.” Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, said the court was likely swayed by the high-profile nature of the case and its potential to affect public safety, coupled with the judge’s public interviews and her appearance of openly encouraging lawyers to challenge the city in court.