Richard Drew, Associated Press
NEW YORK — A federal appeals court block of a judge's ruling that found the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy discriminated against minorities may be short lived, depending on the outcome of next week's mayoral election.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday that the ruling by U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin would be on hold pending the outcome of an appeal by the city, a fight that could be dropped if Democrat Bill de Blasio, who is leading the polls by 39 points, has his way.
He has said he would drop objections to the decision, which calls for a monitor to oversee major changes to the police tactic.
"We have to end the overuse of stop and frisk — and any delay only means a continued and unnecessary rift between our police and the people they protect," De Blasio said in a statement.
In an interview Friday on Fox5's "Good Day New York," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, "I think it's difficult not go forward with the appeal no matter who the mayor is, based on this ruling."
De Blasio's Republican rival, Joe Lhota, said the city's next mayor must push forward with the appeal.
"From Day One, I have stood with Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly in support of these proactive policies that have saved countless lives," he said. "The court has vindicated our positions."
Bloomberg has steadfastly defended the practice and the topic became an election flashpoint, resonating nationwide. Kelly was shouted down over the tactic by students during a speech at Brown University earlier in the week.
"This is indeed an important decision for all New Yorkers and for the men and women of the New York City police department who work very hard day in and day out to keep this city safe," Kelly said Thursday.
The three-judge panel also took the unusual step of removing Scheindlin from the case, because it said she ran afoul of the code of conduct for U.S. judges by misapplying a related case ruling that allowed her to take the case, and by giving media interviews during the trial. It noted she had given a series of media interviews and public statements responding to criticism of the court. In a footnote, it cited interviews with the New York Law Journal, The Associated Press and The New Yorker magazine.
In the AP interview, Scheindlin said reports that Bloomberg had reviewed her record to show that most of her 15 written "search and seizure" rulings since she took the bench in 1994 had gone against law enforcement was a "below-the-belt attack" on judicial independence. She said it was "quite disgraceful" if the mayor's office was behind the study.
Scheindlin said in a statement later Thursday she consented to the interviews under the condition she wouldn't comment on the ongoing case.
"And I did not," she said.
Scheindlin said some reporters used quotes from written opinions that gave the appearance she had commented on the case but "a careful reading of each interview will reveal that no such comments were made."
In 2007, Scheindlin told the same lawyers who had argued a similar case before her to bring the stop and frisk case to her, because she said the two were related. Not long after, the current case was filed by the attorneys.
The appeals court said a new judge would be assigned at random to handle further decisions and said it would hear arguments in March on the formal appeal by the city. That judge may choose to make alterations to Scheindlin's rulings, but it would be unlikely.
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