NEW YORK — Two uniformed officers from the New York Police Department accosted a “suspicious female wearing dark, baggy clothing,” in accordance with the city’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy late Monday night.
According to the police report, a preliminary pat down uncovered “a hammer-like object on the suspect’s person, capable of doling out brutal street justice.” The object was later revealed to be a gavel belonging to Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan.
Scheindlin, dressed in her judicial robes at the time, had been hurrying to a special court session when she was, in her words, “unceremoniously pulled aside and interrogated despite [her] reasoned protestations.”
In Scheindlin’s telling, the Police Department’s behavior violated the Fourth and 14th Amendments, pertaining respectively to constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government and for equal protection.
But when Scheindlin’s case was later brought before a higher court, it found that she “ran afoul” of acceptable conduct for someone in her position when she made known her personal bias against being stopped and frisked.
The federal appeals court stripped Scheindlin of her role in the ongoing litigation over the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk, finding that “nobody who is degraded by the police so publicly could remain impartial when it comes determining the legality of said degradation.”
Raymond W. Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, agreed, saying, “I have always been—and certainly I haven’t been alone—concerned about the partiality of Judge Scheindlin.”
“The petty gripes of the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who every year are stopped and frisked only to be found completely innocent are only a drop in the bucket of a city of over 8 million,” continued Kelly. “My officers can’t possibly be expected to protect and serve them all equally.”
For now, the court let stand the city’s current stop-and-frisk policy, effectively turning a blind eye to Scheindlin’s pleas to reform the practice.
Gerlado Rivera, a television personality and attorney who regularly reports on hot-button legal issues had a suggestion for New Yorkers. “I am urging women and minorities not to go out wearing judicial robes,” said Rivera. “I think black robes are as much responsible for Shira Scheindlin’s mix-up with the law as much as her activist judicial philosophy.”