Trials & Litigation

NYC police unions have no standing to intervene in stop-and-frisk settlements, says federal judge


Finding that various New York City police unions have no standing in the city’s stop-and-frisk lawsuits—which Mayor Bill Blasio decided to settle in January—a federal judge on Wednesday denied the law enforcement groups’ motion to intervene.

“Although officers mentioned by name in the orders may feel that their reputations have been harmed due to the public evaluation of their conduct, it is less clear how anonymous officers with no connection to this litigation might suffer reputational injury from a finding that their employer’s policy violates the Constitution,” wrote Judge Analisa Torres in her opinion (PDF). “The unions offer no explanation other than to state the conclusion that such officers are in fact harmed.”

According to the Associated Press, part of the motion sought to overturn a prior ruling that found the city’s use of stop-and-frisk discriminated against people of color and violated the Fourth and 14th Amendments.

“Although framed as a concern over reputational harm and collective bargaining rights, the gravamen of the unions’ motions is that they disagree with the court for ruling against the city and the city for refusing to appeal,” wrote Torres. “The unions seek to force the city into another round of litigation that the city does not want to pursue in order to vindicate on appeal a policy the city does not want to implement.”

As part of the proposed settlement reached in January, plaintiffs and the mayor’s office agreed to a federal monitor overseeing reforms, as well as the city participating in a “joint process with community stakeholders” to ensure that people harmed by stop-and-frisk play a significant role in shaping reform. In a separate order, Judge Torres approved a modification to the agreement, which would set a three-year term for the federal monitor, reports Reuters.

Judge Torres also denied the unions’ request to participate in the remedial phase of the case. Her order notes that the remedial order already offers “police organizations” a chance to participate in reforming stop-and-frisk policies and procedures.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, one of the intervening groups, said they will appeal Torres’ order.

“The unions’ participation has become even more important given that the settlement of the case was reached by parties that appeared to have interests that became allied after the recent election with no party representing the interests of the employees who will be most impacted,” said Patrick J. Lynch, president of the PBA. “It is unfair and inconceivable that employees would not be allowed in this process.”

Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) also have stories.

Related articles:

ABAJournal.com: “NYC police unions in stop-and-frisk litigation say they may mention case in contract talks”

ABA Journal: “Has ‘stop and frisk’ been stopped?”

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