February 22, 2014

Stop and Frisk Litigation Heading Towards Settlement

The long-running saga of the NYC Stop and Frisk litigation lurched closer to resolution yesterday, when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted the City's request to remand the case to the district court for settlement discussions. The appellate court also resolved the pending motions to intervene in the appeal by various police unions by remanding the issue to the district court as well.

Quite a lot has changed since Mayor de Blasio's election four months ago. Until that point, the City and the NYPD had fiercely defended its application of the controversial program, leading to lengthy hearings, and resulting in a detailed and damning ruling by the Hon. Shira Scheindlin, that included the imposition of a federal monitor Recognizing that the incoming administration had already conceded that the racial profiling aspects of Stop and Frisk were unacceptable and that the new mayor was willing to accept Scheindlin's ruling, outgoing Mayor Bloomberg launched a frenzied attack on all fronts, resulting in a flurry of activity, all of which I commented on here, here, here, and here on my firm's blog/news page at Lumer & Neville.

The Law Department moved to stay and vacate Scheindlin's order and sought an expedited appeal so the matter could be heard before de Blasio pulled the plug. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals, in an unusual attack on a district judge, and without any such request from the defendants, reassigned the case away from Scheindlin. The judge, understandably upset with this development and the appellate court's criticism of her handling of the case, sought leave to intervene and defend herself by filing a stirring defense of her conduct. As it became more apparent that the Second Circuit was going to let time run out -- so de Blasio could take office and withdraw the appeal -- the various police unions filed papers seeking to take over the appeal. As discussed here, this was an aggressive and confrontational move that sets up a very early, and potentially nasty, public fight between the NYPD and its unions.

In other words, it is a messy, complicated bit of litigation, which the Court of Appeals is hoping the district court can resolve through settlement. What the settlement will look like, how it will be received and enforced, and what this all means for the NYPD and the citizens of New York City, is still uncertain.

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