New York City won a bid for a federal appeals court to return lawsuits over stop-and-frisk police tactics to a lower court while Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration pursues a settlement over the practice.
Fulfilling a campaign promise, de Blasio last month announced the city had reached a settlement with plaintiffs who sued to stop the police department’s stop-and-frisk practice and other measures, which a federal judge found illegally targeted blacks and Latinos. It marked a reversal of the position taken by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who credited stop-and-frisk with driving down crime during his 12-year tenure.
The city last month asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York to send the case back to a district judge “to permit the parties to explore a resolution.” De Blasio also withdrew an appeal by Bloomberg, who sought to reverse rulings by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin that police tactics violated the Constitution.
Police unions sought to join in the Bloomberg appeal, asking that the federal appeals court continue to review Sheindlin’s rulings in several police tactic cases, saying they were “fatally flawed.”
The appeals court last year removed Scheindlin from the case, saying she appeared biased. The case was reassigned to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres.
“The district court is better positioned to deal with the complexities that might arise that might arise during multi-faceted settlement negotiations in which a variety of interests must be accommodated,” U.S. Circuit Court Judges Jose Cabranes, John Walker and Barrington Parker said in an order today.
While the de Blasio administration had asked that the appeal be halted for 45 days, the appeals court today said it could be delayed for an unspecified period of time to allow the parties to reach a resolution to the suit.
Lawyers for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York, the Detectives Endowment Association and two other unions had argued their work would be hampered by police procedures ordered by Scheindlin.
The appeals court said it wouldn’t take a position on the unions’ request and that their concerns would be better handled by Torres.
“Our mission has always been to gain a seat at the table in order to protect our members’ rights and reputations,” Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement. “We look forward to representing those interests and hope is that the court will recognize the importance of having the police officer’s voices heard in the process of addressing the issues raised in this litigation.”
Scheindlin issued her stop-and-frisk ruling after overseeing a nine-week trial. She appointed an independent monitor and a panel of outside academic advisers to oversee police reforms.
The judge also ordered the police department to change its training and policies on stop-and-frisk to bring the tactic in line with constitutional requirements. She said she would order a pilot program in which officers from five police precincts would wear body cameras to record their interactions with people.
Police are generally barred by law from stopping, questioning or frisking -- the act of patting a person down in a search for weapons or other contraband -- someone in the street without some level of reasonable, individualized suspicion. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police must have such suspicion of crime to justify a stop.
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The appeal cases are Ligon v. City of New York, 13-3442, and Floyd v. City of New York, 13-3461, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan). The lower-court cases are Floyd v. City of New York, 08-cv-01034; Ligon v. City of New York 12-cv-02274, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York(Manhattan).
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