A federal appeals court on Thursday halted a sweeping set of changes to the New York Police Department’s policy of stopping and frisking people on the street, and, in strikingly personal terms, criticized the trial judge’s conduct in the litigation and removed her from the case.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, “ran afoul” of the judiciary’s code of conduct by compromising the “appearance of impartiality surrounding this litigation.” The panel criticized how she had steered the lawsuit to her courtroom when it was filed in early 2008.
The ruling effectively puts off a battery of changes that Judge Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, had ordered for the Police Department. It postpones the operations of the monitor who was asked to oversee reforms to the department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which Judge Scheindlin found violated the Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.
In a two-page order, the panel of three judges also criticized Judge Scheindlin for granting media interviews and for making public statements while the case was pending before her.
The use of police stops has been widely cited by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as a crucial tool in helping drive the number of murders and major crimes in the city to historic lows. The police say the practice has saved the lives of thousands of young black and Hispanic men by removing thousands of guns from the streets.
The lawsuit claimed that blacks and Hispanics were singled out by the police for street stops even when there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
Judge Scheindlin’s decision, issued in August, found that the stop-and-frisk tactics violated the rights of minorities in the city. With that decision, which came at the conclusion of a lengthy trial that began in the spring, she repudiated a major element of the crime-fighting legacy of Mr. Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly.