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Appeals court stays ruling in NYC stop-and-frisk case

NEW YORK — A federal appellate court on Thursday granted a stay in the landmark police stop-and-frisk ruling in New York City, and removed the initial trial judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, from the case.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that Scheindlin “ran afoul” of the judiciary’s code of conduct by compromising the “appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation.” The panel criticized how she had steered the lawsuit to her courtroom when it was filed in early 2008.

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The ruling effectively puts off a battery of changes that Scheindlin, of the US District Court in Manhattan, had ordered for the Police Department. Those changes include postponing the operations of the monitor who was given the task to oversee reforms to the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, which Scheindlin found to violate the Fourth and 14th amendments of the Constitution.

In a two-page order, the panel of three judges from the Second Circuit also criticized Scheindlin for granting media interviews and making public statements while the case was pending before her.

The judges ordered that the stop-and-frisk lawsuit be reassigned to another judge. The Second Circuit ruling instructs the new judge to put a hold to “all proceedings and otherwise await further action” from the Second Circuit.

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 the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

But the panel, citing an article by the New York Times in a footnote in the ruling, found fault with how the judge improperly applied a “related-case rule” to bring the stop-and-frisk case under her purview.

The Second Circuit has not yet taken up whether Scheindlin’s decision reached the correct conclusion. “In taking these actions, we intimate no view on the substance or merits of the pending appeals,” the two-page order stated.

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