The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has confirmed what was already apparent to disinterested observers of the policing battles in New York City: the federal judge who ruled against the New York Police Department in August is deeply biased. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin declared that the NYPD’s stop, question, and frisk practices were deliberately targeted against innocent black and Hispanic New Yorkers. That opinion rested on patent lies against the department and a profound ignorance of policing and crime. But as I argued earlier this year, and as the Second Circuit just corroborated, Scheindlin never should have had the case, Floyd v. New York, in the first place.
Scheindlin had encouraged the Center for Constitutional Rights to file Floyd and promised to take jurisdiction over it under the doctrine of the “related case”: If a judge is already hearing a case on one particular topic, he can take jurisdiction over a subsequently filed case on the same topic with similar facts and parties, thus circumventing the usual random assignment for cases. But when Scheindlin took jurisdiction over Floyd, there was no extant stop, question, and frisk case before her to which Floyd was related. Her assumption of jurisdiction was a power grab, pure and simple, intended to prolong her hold over the NYPD. She used that grip to the max, installing a federal monitor over the department, who reports to her, to implement her spurious idea that policing should mirror population demographics rather than the incidence of crime.
The Second Circuit has now removed Scheindlin from the case on the ground that her encouragement to file Floyd, as well as several interviews she gave to the press during the trial, compromised the appearance of judicial impartiality. It is impossible to overstate the humiliation of such a rare rebuke. The appellate court’s action casts doubt on all of Scheindlin’s rulings, not just in Floyd, but in the other two stop, question, and frisk cases over which she has grabbed jurisdiction.
New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, predicted to win City Hall next Tuesday, has yoked himself to Scheindlin’s and the Center for Constitutional Rights’ calumnies against the NYPD; he has promised to drop the city’s appeal of Floyd v. New York and to curtail radically the NYPD’s stop practices. New Yorkers have one last opportunity to reconsider their support for de Blasio and to ensure that New York remains the safest big city in the country.