The Clinton-appointed federal judge that ruled New York’s stop-and-frisk program amounts to “indirect racial profiling” got yanked off the case by an appellate court that found the jurist “ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.”
It was a painful spanking that one of the city’s newspapers said “generated legal and political shockwaves.” Indeed this sort of public admonition of a federal judge is rare, which may lead some to conclude that this one, Shira Scheindlin, really screwed up. In removing Scheindlin the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that her appearance of impartiality had been “compromised.”
The case involves the New York Police Department’s successful anti-crime initiative directing officers to stop and search people suspected of criminal activity. Leftist organizations claim it violates civil rights because it disproportionately affects blacks and Hispanics and a group of minorities sued the city to get rid of the measure. In mid-August, after a 10-week trial, Judge Scheindlin determined that stop-and-frisk amounted to racial profiling and resulted in the “disproportionate and discriminatory” stopping of millions of black and Hispanic men.
Judge Scheindlin also imposed a federal monitor on the city’s police department, a highly unusual move following a civil trial. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, credits stop-and-frisk for a record-low dip in crimes. The judge’s decision could reverse those crime reductions and make the city a “more dangerous place,” he told a mainstream newspaper following the ruling.
Besides extracting her from the case last week, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Scheindlin’s order requiring changes to the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices. The judge received the embarrassing reprimand for creating an “appearance of impropriety” by, among other things, granting a “series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court.” In public interviews Scheindlin appeared to openly encourage lawyers to challenge the city in court, according to the appellate ruling.
Though they are lifetime appointees, this is behavior unbecoming of a federal judge. Here’s the zinger in the appellate court ruling: “Upon review of the record in these cases, we conclude that the District Judge ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Canon 2 (“A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”); see also Canon 3(C)(1) (“A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned . . . .”), and that the appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation was compromised by the District Judge’s improper application of the Court’s “related case rule,” see Transfer of Related Cases, S.D.N.Y. & E.D.N.Y. Local Rule 13(a), and by a series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court.”