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Brooklyn Law School professor enters fight to bring back stop-and-frisk judge

Professor Anita Bernstein, legal ethics professor at Brooklyn Law School. Photo coutesy of Brooklylaw.edu

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Retired judges and a number of law professors have submitted legal briefs in support of the reinstatement of Manhattan federal Judge Shira Scheindlin to the stop-and-frisk cases.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan had removed Scheindlin, on the grounds that she had made statements in media interviews that jeopardized the appearance of judicial objectivity.

In August, Scheindlin ruled that while not wholly unconstitutional, the New York Police Department’s policy to stop-and-frisk individuals based purely on a mere reasonable suspicion that said persons had committed or were in the process of committing a crime, had been carried out in an unconstitutional manner and targeted an inordinate amount of black and Hispanic males.  

In order for the policy to remain in place, Scheindlin ordered that it be carried out in a constitutional manner. To promote constitutionality, Scheindlin appointed an independent monitor to review NYPD policies and ensure that tactics and training adhere to the U.S. Constitution. Scheindlin also added a facilitator to assist in the remedial process.

After she was removed from the case, Scheindlin issued a statement saying she had properly presided over the cases and consented to interviews under the condition that she wouldn't comment on the ongoing case. "And I did not," she said.

Scheindlin’s attorney, Burt Neuborne, filed an appeal asking the court to reconsider its decision, sinace it did not allow Scheindlin an opportunity to defend herself; the appeals court refused to reconsider its earlier decision for removal.

Concerned with the “policy ramifications” that may result from the appeals court’s “peremptory decision to remove Judge Shira Scheindlin as the presiding trial court judge in [the stop-and-frisk cases],” six retired judges and 13 law professors, including Anita Bernstein, a legal ethics professor at Brooklyn Law School, submitted an amici brief in support of Scheindlin. They requested that Scheindlin’s appeal be reheard by the full appeals court, not just a small panel of three judges.

The court’s treatment of Scheindlin was “fundamentally unfair” and “undermines public confidence in the federal courts,” Bernstein and the others asserted.

Michael Cardozo, New York City’s Corporation Counsel, supported Scheindlin’s removal and filed a motion to have Scheindlin’s prior rulings in the stop-and-frisk cases vacated. At present, Scheindlin’s orders are on hold until all appeals have been adjudicated.

The city’s rush to vacate Scheindlin’s rulings is an attempt to have stop-and-frisk fully reinstated prior to inauguration of NYC Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio. On the campaign trail, de Blasio made it clear that he would cease all challenges to Scheindlin’s rulings. “Obviously, it [stop-and-frisk] has been used unconstitutionally in many instances. We’re going to forcefully pursue a number of things," he said.

November 20, 2013 - 3:00pm


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