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Judge asks to be put back on New York 'stop-and-frisk' case

People hold signs protesting against the Stop-and-Frisk program, at a news conference outside the Federal Court in New York November 1, 2013
People hold signs protesting against the Stop-and-Frisk program, at a news conference outside the Federal Court in New York November 1, 2013

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday asked an appeals court to reinstate her to a closely watched case regarding the constitutionality of the New York Police Department's "stop-and-frisk" tactic, saying she was unfairly removed from it a week ago.

In a highly unusual request, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse its ruling of October 31, when a three-judge panel removed her from the case, saying she "ran afoul" of the judicial code of conduct in part by granting media interviews.

Just two months ago, Scheindlin became a hero of civil rights and civil liberties groups when she struck down parts of stop-and-frisk, ruling that it amounted to "indirect racial profiling" that resulted in the disproportionate and discriminatory stopping of blacks and Hispanics.

In that ruling, she also appointed a federal monitor to oversee changes in NYPD practices.

The city appealed, and the appeals court ruling last week to remove her from the case and to freeze her decision was at least a temporary victory for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD. The city has argued that stopping, questioning and frisking suspicious people has led to a steep decline in crime rates.

The issue also played a role in the campaign for mayor of New York City in which candidate Bill de Blasio, who won in a landslide on Tuesday, blasted stop-and-frisk as unfair.

The three-judge panel's ruling had no implications for the merits of the case and instead was a rebuke of Scheindlin. The judges said they would rule on the merits of the case upon hearing the city's appeal of Scheindlin's ruling next March.

Scheindlin, in the motion filed Wednesday by her attorney, Burt Neuborne, noted that the judge had never been accused of running afoul of the code of conduct by any of the parties in the case at the district court level, nor in oral arguments before the appeals court.

Moreover, the appeals court should have notified Scheindlin in advance that it intended to disqualify her and she should have been given a chance to respond before the ruling was made, her lawyer said in the court brief.

"Since nobody asked for her disqualification, and the disqualification came from the court itself, this is her chance to ask, 'Before you do this to me, let me at least get a chance to explain myself,'" Neuborne told Reuters.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Chris Francescani; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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