Appeals judges explain removal of long-standing stop-and-frisk judge

stop and frisk court of appeals order
The judges said they found no wrong-doing by Judge Shira Scheindlin, but maintained their decision to remove the cases from her docket and refused to allow her to come before them and argue to get them back.
Credit: Thinkstock

The panel of Second Circuit Court of Appeals judges who removed Judge Shira Scheindlin from two stop-and-frisk cases issued an opinion explaining why they ordered the cases be reassigned to a different judge at random.

Scheindlin was the presiding judge over two high-profile stop-and-frisk lawsuits against the city, Floyd v. City of New York and Ligon v. City of New York. In both cases, she ruled against the city. The city asked her to stay both rulings while they appeal them; she denied that request. The appeals court has since granted the city its stay requests, and agreed to hear their motion to appeal.

They also, in an unusual move, took the cases away from Scheindlin. In another unusual move, they decided to hear the motion to appeal themselves, rather than having it go to a new panel of appeals court judges.

They emphasized repeatedly in their new opinion that they had found no evidence of actual judicial misconduct by Scheindlin: rather, the issue was one of appearances.

Citing comments made by the judge in court, as well as “statements to the media,” and in particular the fact that those statements were published before she had issued her decision and “while public interest in the outcome of the litigation was high,” the judges maintained that a “reasonable observer” could have had questions about Scheindlin’s impartiality.

The judges noted that interview subjects “cannot predict with certainty what the writer will say,” but maintained that agreeing to do interviews opens the subject up to vulnerability to things like a statement in the New Yorker piece from a former law clerk alleging that the judge “thinks cops lie.”

Pointing to interviews the judge gave to the New Yorker, the Associated Press, and the New York Law Journal, the judges said that Scheindlin’s general claims of being “skeptical of law enforcement, in contrast to certain of her colleagues” were especially notable given that such public statements by judges are rare. Given that, “and the ease with which [such statements] may be avoided, make it more likely that a reasonable person will interpret such statements as evidence of bias.”

In a separate opinion, the judges denied Scheindlin’s motion to appear before them and persuade them to reconsider their decision to remove her from the cases, calling it “unprecedented.”

Specifically, they argue that the judge has no claim to legal injury, and therefore no legal standing. Moreover, they maintain, they never accused her of wrongdoing, so she has no need to come before them to defend herself.

As to her lawyer’s claim that the decision to remove her is being viewed by the public “in the context of an unseemly dispute by judges,” echoing the judges’ own insistence on the importance of the appearance of impartiality in their decision to remove Scheindlin, the judges dismissed all such allegations.

“Reassignment is an ordinary tool used by our judicial system to maintain and promote the appearance of impartiality across the federal courts,” the judges wrote. “We recognize that it is frustrating to work extensively on a case that is later reassigned, and that reassignment, even if only based on an appearance of partiality, is a displeasing occurrence for any district judge, particularly for a long- serving and distinguished one such as Judge Scheindlin, but we are confident that these matters will be ably handled, without any arguable appearance of partiality, by another of her capable colleagues.”

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.