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NYC proposes settlement in stop-and-frisk cases; police union has ‘serious concerns’

Posted Jan 30, 2014 6:28 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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A motion to resolve two cases that accuse the New York City Police Department of unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices was filed Thursday in the New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the proposed settlement at a Thursday press conference. According to a statement from his office, the city and plaintiffs lawyers 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.

De Blasio promised to reform police stop-and-frisk practices during his mayoral campaign. In September, when de Blasio was still New York City's public advocate, he filed an amicus brief (PDF) on behalf of the plaintiffs in Floyd v. City of New York and Ligon v. City of New York cases over the stop-and-frisk practices.

Various police unions previously filed motions to intervene on the two cases, and the 2nd Circuit issued an order (PDF) deferring ruling on the city's motion until Feb. 7, giving the intervenors time to file a response.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, one of the intervening parties, released a statement Thursday. "We continue to have serious concerns about how these remedies will impact our members and the ability to do their jobs," said Patrick J. Lynch, the group's president. "Our goal is to continue to be involved in the process in order to give voice to our members and to make every effort to ensure that their rights are protected."

The city's motion (PDF) asks the court to remand both Floyd and Ligon back to the district court, "for the purpose of exploring a full resolution of the cases." The filing states that the plaintiffs in both cases through their lawyers consent to the relief requested.

The cases are two of three pending lawsuits that challenge NYPD stop-and-frisk practices. While some credit stop-and-frisk with reducing New York City crime rates, U.S. District Court Shira Scheindlin found in an August order (PDF) that the practice is racially discriminatory in violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

The 2nd Circuit removed Scheindlin from both cases in October, noting in an opinion (PDF) that a ruling she made about related cases, coupled with media interviews she gave while Floyd was ongoing, could cause observers to question her impartiality. The cases are now assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres.

The Bronx Defenders, a nonprofit law office, are among the plaintiffs counsel in the Ligon case.

"We are encouraged by the mayor's decision to withdraw the city's appeal of the federal court's rulings in the stop-and-frisk cases and hope that this signals a new approach to policing that will be constitutional, respectful and fair to every New York City resident," Robin Steinberg, the group's founder and executive director, told the ABA Journal.

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