Petulant Billionaire NY Mayor Continues To Insist He's Never Wrong; Sues City Council Over Stop-And-Frisk Legislation

from the it's-my-way-or-IT'S-MY-WAY,-dammit! dept

Maybe billionaires are just used to getting their way. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has seen his and Kelly’s precious stop-and-frisk program declared unconstitutional by a federal court and face additional curbs via legislation passed by the New York City Council with a veto-proof vote. (Not that it stopped him from threatening those who voted for it… and vetoing them on sheer principle.)

Despite the number of legal attacks on the program, Bloomberg still feels its an unassailable part of modern policing. And as the opposition has continued to mount, Bloomberg’s defensive actions and statements have taken on a degree of stubborn petulance. Everyone’s wrong but him and his personal army.

At this point, Bloomberg is running short of toys to throw out of his well-appointed crib. However, he still has a few left to hurl at his opponents, and this latest salvo pretty much erases any emaciated notions that Bloomberg cares about New Yorkers more than he cares about being “right.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued the City Council Tuesday in a bid to overturn a law that aims to curb the police department’s use of its controversial stop-and-frisk policy.

The council’s votes came less than two weeks after a federal judge ruled unconstitutional the department’s stop-and-frisk policy, in which officers stop people in high-crime areas suspected of engaging in criminal activity. The policy was thrown out on the grounds that it disproportionately targets minorities.

The council reaffirmed their passage of the measure 10 days ago, along with another bill creating an independent watchdog to monitor the New York Police Department, overriding the mayor’s veto, despite his warnings that the legislation would threaten public safety.

For a man who constantly claims his first concern is public safety when defending stop-and-frisk, he sure doesn’t seem to care much for them otherwise. Bloomberg gives every appearance that he believes he owns the city he’s supposed to be serving — and that what he says goes, no matter how many people object.

By filing this lawsuit, he’s basically attacking the city’s own governing body (another set of servants who represent the public) for daring to undercut his decrees. The suit’s success rests on an assertion Bloomberg certainly finds appealing — that state criminal procedure laws trump a city’s attempt to undercut his unconstitutional program.

The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, asserted the bill was invalid because it is superseded by the state’s criminal procedure law, or CPL, which governs the standards and procedures that police officers must follow.

“The CPL preempts the field of criminal procedure legislation and prevents local legislatures, including the council, from passing local laws in this area,” the lawsuit said.

This is a very interesting tactic. Well, “interesting” isn’t really the best word. Perhaps “disingenuous” or “hypocritical” or “transparently self-serving” would be better substitutes. Whether or not the mayor’s legal argument has any weight remains to be seen but, in plain English, using the mayor’s own assertions, this is what he’s arguing.

The city council cannot pass local laws that address areas covered by state criminal procedure laws — and he’s using this argument to defend a local program. Stop-and-frisk is not used statewide. It is solely a NYPD program. If that’s the case, it could reasonably be argued that the city council does indeed have the power to pass laws affecting purely local police programs, such as stop-and-frisk.

But as the city’s counsel states here, Bloomberg can make a pretty strong case otherwise:

Michael Cardozo, the city’s top lawyer, said in a statement that the lawsuit was necessary to ensure the council did not overstep its authority.

“Local legislative bodies should not be passing laws affecting the regulation of law enforcement activity in this way,” he said. “This is a matter governed by the state legislature.”

Cardozo calls the council’s bill “regulation of law enforcement activity.” Utilizing this broad term, the council would be overstepping its limits.The way the council’s legislation is written doesn’t specifically target the program itself, but rather the methods deployed for the stops and searches, and even those aren’t addressed directly. It’s more of a tangential approach that broadens the recourse options for citizens who feel they’ve been unfairly treated by these tactics.

Bloomberg is likely relying on the inherent vagueness of the council’s legislation to work against it in this lawsuit, a vagueness that was likely intentional as the broader wording helped trim down the number of potential loopholes the NYPD could exploit in order to escape filed lawsuits.

If this lawsuit goes Bloomberg’s way, it hardly looks like the end of the attacks on stop-and-frisk, but it does perhaps signal the end of its rigorous defense from the mayor’s office. Two mayoral candidates have stated their displeasure with the program.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a leading Democratic mayoral candidate:

“Mayor Bloomberg can sue all he wants, but at the end of the day, we will successfully beat back this ill-advised litigation and ensure the prerogative of the city council to reform stop & frisk…”

Bill de Blasio, another Democratic frontrunner stated that “racial profiling is not good policing,” adding later that, “we will not continue stop-and-frisk the way Ray Kelly’s had it.”

Bloomberg’s third and final term ends this year but it appears he’s going to do everything he can before then to ensure his legacy of unconstitutional stops lives on.

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Comments on “Petulant Billionaire NY Mayor Continues To Insist He's Never Wrong; Sues City Council Over Stop-And-Frisk Legislation”

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23 Comments
leichter (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nah. The City Council should vote to disallow any spending of City funds to prosecute this lawsuit. Bloomberg could certainly ante up the money, but he probably can’t give the money to the city attorneys – he’d have to be the plaintiff, and then he would probably be found not to have standing.

Of course, this assumes the usual arrangement of government legislative and executive functions. New York City’s government structures are incredible baroque – plus there’s an overlay of rights and responsibilities that you would expect to belong to the City, but that the State legislature has chosen to take control of for various (typically really bad) reasons. So I have no idea whether it would even be possible for the City Council to control how City money is spent.

All that said: Bloomberg has, in general, been a very good mayor. He has a couple of blind spots, which for some reason have become more and more visible as his tenure approaches its end. Leaders all have their limitations. Rudolph Guilliani was a much more problematic figure with many more odd blind spots, but not only was he also a pretty successful mayor, but he was certainly the mayor the city needed after 9/11 – at least shortly after 9/11, when everyone looked for leadership and a sense that the world and the City would somehow survive and recover.

Given New York City’s size and complexity, an effective mayor who doesn’t have some strange sides to him … probably can’t exist.

— Jerry

Anonymous Coward says:

what would Bloomberg do if the shoe was on the other foot? i suspect he would sue and expect the court to impose a prison sentence on those accused for not liking what was proposed and actually happening. perhaps a dose of the same medicine might be in order?
the biggest problem, yet again is money. he, like just about every wealthy person, thinks that because he says something, that’s how it should be or actually is. because he wants something, he should actually get it or be given it. wealth makes people think they are above everyone and everything and that it’s only the ordinary mortals, the mere, lowly workers, that have to do as they are told!!

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: If it's true...

No, the way I see his argument is: if the police department decides to do something, they aren’t doing it via passing a law, and since no law was passed it’s perfectly fine. In other words, if a city’s police department does something the city council doesn’t like, the only means for the city council to deal with it is to make an appeal to the state government.

ntlgnce (profile) says:

I have an IDEA,,

Lets have some cops who disagree with his “stop and frisk law”. set up road blocks on his route most traveled, and stop and frisk him as many times before he gets to and from ANYWHERE he goes, even if its just a trip to the local gas station, or to his neighbors house. getting frisked 10 times on an 11 min drive would sure change his view. I am sure that there are criminals out there that would be happy to make his home neighborhood a “high crime” area.

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