Judge Scheindlin Shuts Down NYC's Request For Stay On Ruling Finding Stop And Frisk Unconstitutional

from the Bloomberg:stop-and-frisk::pitbull:toddler dept

A few weeks back the city of New York filed a motion to stay Judge Scheindlin’s ruling (pending appeal) that components of the NYPD’s infamous stop and frisk program were unconstitutional. She also ordered the installation of an independent monitor and the deployment of body cameras at one station per precinct.

The city, of course, declared that pretty much everything about Sheindlin’s decision would result in “irreparable harm” (as one does in these filings). Scheindlin has denied the stay and shot down every single claim presented by the city. Fun fact: several city council members and mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio all offered declarations of opposition to the city’s motion to stay. (De Blasio’s was an amicus curiae letter.)

As to the city’s argument that carrying out the Finest message (i.e., instructing its officers to operate in adherence with the Constitution) will cause “irreparable harm” via confusion in the ranks (especially if Sheindlin’s ruling is overturned on appeal), both in implementation and (possible) retraining (again, dependent on the success of the appeal), the judge had this to say:

The City’s first argument is circular. The Court’s orders simply require that the NYPD conform its policies and practices to well-established constitutional requirements. The City’s argument here is merely a restatement of its argument regarding the likelihood of success on the merits. Because it believes the Court’s decisions are based on an erroneous view of the law — despite repeated citations to Supreme Court and Second Circuit controlling law — it also believes that irreparable harm will result from basing any relief on those decisions. Thus, the City’s argument conflates the first two factors and fails to prove either one.

Follow the Constitution. Is that so hard? If the NYPD trains its officers to follow constitutional guidelines in its stops then there should be no confusion. The city’s argument complains that it will first have to train its officers to respect the limits and protections built into the Constitution, but if Sheindlin’s ruling is overturned, it will have to retrain its officers to resume their disrespect of the public’s rights. That’s the argument, and it’s bizarre, and Sheindlin calls the city out for it.

As for the city’s complaint that deploying body cameras will cause “significant harm” in terms of time, money and (ROFL) “possible impingement on the privacy rights of the public,” Sheindlin offers this rebuttal:

With respect to the pilot project on body-worn cameras, it is undisputed that the project will require the expenditure of time and resources, but it is also clear that the Monitor will oversee the project to ensure that the privacy rights of both police officers and citizens are carefully protected. The purpose of the experiment is to ensure that both police and citizens benefit from the recording of stop and frisk encounters — which will provide a contemporaneous and presumptively incontestable record of what occurred during the encounter. Again, it does not appear that any irreparable harm will result from instituting a pilot project that will be carefully developed prior to implementation and that has been used by other police departments with apparent success.

While I’m slightly disappointed that Scheindlin didn’t call the NYPD out for installing several thousand cameras around the city with no apparent concern for the “privacy rights of the public,” it’s good to see that she’s not going to let the city refer to initial expenses as “irreparable harm.” Roughly paraphrased: Of course implementing something that didn’t previously exist will expend resources. That’s a given. Quit acting like this order will somehow result in a permanent and debilitating blow to the NYPD’s budget.

The city’s third argument — that the court’s decision violates the principles of federalism by its “unjustified incursion into the municipality’s authority to police its citizens” — is handled the best. Sheindlin flips the city’s own argument (“constitutional harm… is always irreparable”) and uses it against it.

The City has the obligation and the right to police its citizens — but it must do so in compliance with the dictates of the United States Constitution.

There’s your “irreparable constitutional harm” — except that it’s the city that’s been causing “irreparable harm” on a massive scale for more than a decade.

Also of note on this particular argument: Mayor Bloomberg has sued the city council over a bill it passed that targets stop and frisk. Bloomberg argued that state laws governing criminal procedure supersede city policies. Because of that, the city council could not pass legislation aimed at regulating criminal procedure. Presumably, the US Constitution supersedes any New York state law (or city law). If Bloomberg manages to win this suit, all the city council has to do is redraw its stop and frisk bill a bit more along constitutional lines.

The city also claims that “public interest” favors a stay. Even without the statements from several city council members and Bill De Blasio’s filing, this would be a ridiculous claim. The “public interest” stated here is a solely the imaginary product of the Bloomberg-Kelly brain trust. The city (read: Kelly and Bloomberg) argues (as they always do) that crime rates will rise precipitously and minorities will be “hurt” if stop and frisk is hindered in any way.

Scheindlin strikes this claim down with math. She points out that in the first half of 2013, ‘stop and frisk’ stops dropped 50% as compared to the previous year and yet, crime failed to skyrocket (or even tick upwards). Instead, the overall crime rate dropped 2.7%.

Sheindlin states that allowing the stay would send the wrong message to the public, telling them that the NYPD’s stop and frisk program is a) constitutionally sound (when it isn’t), and b) that the program actually curbs crime, and that going without it would be dangerous.

The case is still being appealed, but in the meantime the remedies ordered by will have to be put into practice. Bloomberg and Kelly are probably past the point of addressing this at a press conference but I imagine they’re off somewhere fuming loudly.

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Comments on “Judge Scheindlin Shuts Down NYC's Request For Stay On Ruling Finding Stop And Frisk Unconstitutional”

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11 Comments
John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: What news you reading

According to the NYPD in a press release responding to this very ruling. The same NYPD that has a long history of lying about how high crime rates are. I could find no other source that corroborates this statistic, nor could I find an explanation of how the number was obtained.

That statistic is completely meaningless and should be ignored until some independent party can corroborate it.

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