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Appeals court puts brakes on Bloomberg's stop-frisk bid

A New York Police Department (NYPD) car sits

A New York Police Department (NYPD) car sits parked in Times Square. (Aug.12, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

A three-judge federal appeals panel Friday rebuffed the Bloomberg administration's effort to quickly annul a decision ordering NYPD stop-and-frisk reforms before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes office in January.

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling appeared to effectively end a bid by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to circumvent de Blasio, who has promised to end the city's appeal of the decision holding that NYPD street stop-and-frisk practices violated the Constitution and naming a monitor.

The same panel that removed U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin from the case for an appearance of bias in October did not address her decision, but said in a brief order that all issues should be heard on appeal next year instead of on an accelerated schedule the city proposed.

The decision was lauded by plaintiffs lawyers.

"This marks the end of the unseemly effort to short-circuit the appeals process and undo the district court's rulings before Bill de Blasio takes office," said Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Hopefully, the legal theatrics will now end and we can all go back to the important task of reforming stop and frisk."

Lis Smith, a de Blasio spokeswoman, said he remained committed to withdrawing any appeal. "Mayor-elect de Blasio has been clear: We must move forward on making fundamental reforms to stop and frisk," Smith said.

The city didn't directly address the court's denial of its motion to vacate Scheindlin's ruling and rejection of an expedited schedule, but noted that she is still off the case.

"The Second Circuit . . . made it clear that we could raise the issue of vacating her ruling when the appeal is heard," said Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo. "The city is moving ahead full speed with its appeal, and we maintain that the city's police force has acted lawfully in its application of stop, question and frisk."

Scheindlin ruled in August that the NYPD was stopping people without the constitutionally required "reasonable suspicion" and improperly targeting minorities. She named a monitor to begin developing reforms in training, supervision and discipline.

On Oct. 31, Second Circuit Judges Jose Cabranes, Barrington Parker and John Walker stayed her decision until the appeal is heard next year, and removed her for creating an appearance of partiality by urging lawyers to file the case in 2007 and giving media interviews.

The city then argued that an appearance of bias required immediate annulment of Scheindlin's decision. While it rejected that request Friday, the Second Circuit's removal of the judge and stay of her ruling remain in effect. The panel also said it was open to the parties "exploring a resolution."

The case has been reassigned to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres. As things stand, if de Blasio ended the appeal in January, Torres would implement Scheindlin's decision.

But the plaintiffs in the case and Scheindlin have asked the 13 active judges on the full Second Circuit to rehear the case, end the stay and reinstate the judge. Separately, several police unions are seeking standing to keep the appeal alive even if de Blasio pulls the city out.

With Matthew Chayes

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