A bad message on stop and frisk

A Court of Appeals decision to stay a ruling that ordered reforms to the police practice of stop and frisk was out of order. This decision included the removal of federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who in August had ruled against the NYPD and the Bloomberg administration.

Bloomberg, through the city’s Corporate Counsel, appealed Scheindlin’s decision. Apparently, the Mayor wants to finish his last term fighting a decision that emerged out of systematic abuse of stop and frisk. In addition to his federal appeal, there are also two local challenges aimed at blocking the implementation of police reform laws passed by the New York City Council.

The panel’s decision is highly troublesome. By not only undermining the decision of a prestigious judge, but also removing her —an unprecedented act that is supposed to include a legal proceeding and an analysis of evidence— the panel delivered a black eye to the law and civil rights.

Another departure from standard process is that the same panel will review the appeal. The norm is that a new panel would be convened for this task.

However, bureaucracy may be on the side of the movement that fought for reforms of stop and frisk. The decision of the appellate court could take anywhere from six to eight months, which means that the next mayor could withdraw the federal and state appeals.

The judge who will replace Scheindlin is Analisa J. Torres, who was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in April. In the past, she has been critical of the abuse of stop and frisk.

In the meantime, it is alarming that the reputation of a judge is on the line and that a check is not in place for unlawful police stops. Bloomberg, and the panel, have sent the wrong message on this issue.

The state association of appellate judges in New York should hold this panel accountable and join in the review of this case. And it should send a clear message: Judges on the side of reason, marginalized communities and civil rights should not be undermined by leaders who ignore racial profiling.