November 3, 2014

Unions Denied Entry into Stop and Frisk Litigation

Not too surprising, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the federal appellate court for New York, Vermont, and Connecticut), has rejected the various police unions' last minute attempt to intervene in the Stop and Frisk litigation and, indirectly, affirmed Judge Shira Scheindlin's 2013 determination that the infamous policy was being unconstitutionally applied.

Vindication for Judge Scheindlin? Eh, sort of, kind of, not really. But it's a good outcome and an end to all the needless drama that flowed from the police unions' attempt to salvage the City's abandoned defense of the Stop and Frisk policy.

The decision (here) sets out the relevant history of the litigation. In simple terms, the unions were well aware of the litigation and were content to sit on the sidelines while the City defended the policy. When Scheindlin issued her ruling in mid-2013, the unions remained silent while the City flailed its arms, resisted Judge Scheindlin's directives, and obstructed her order at every turn.

Then de Blasio won the mayoral race, a campaign in which he made clear that if elected, he would stop fighting to save Stop and Frisk and would accede to the court's ruling. When the City reversed course and withdrew it's appeal, the unions came to life. They moved to intervene, and when the district court rejected their motion, appealed to the Second Circuit. (See here and here).

While a formal acknowledgement that Judge Scheindlin got it right the first time around would have been nice, it was not going to happen. After all, this was the same panel that disparaged her efforts and removed her from the case, even though nobody had asked them to. But the net result is that her ruling stands, and that is a good thing. The Court of Appeals correctly noted that the unions' efforts came way too late, and that their stated grounds (the reputation of their members, etc.) were too attenuated to warrant allowing them to take over the defense of the City's position from the City itself against the City's (and the majority of the voting public's) wishes.

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