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Stop and Frisk Litigation Finally, Thankfully, Hopefully at an End

By William Peacock, Esq. on November 03, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

This has been going on for far too long -- the litigation, that is. "Stop and frisk" was a terrible, constitutionally suspect practice where police officers would stop and pat down pedestrians in high-crime areas for no real reason. Disproportionately, those stopped were minorities.

Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall after multiple unfavorable court decisions, or perhaps because he understands the Fourth Amendment better than his predecessor, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to settle the case. But the police unions, unhappy with the settlement, sought to intervene.

On Friday, the Second Circuit, affirming the district court's earlier ruling, held that their attempt was too little, too late. And with no intervenors left to spoil the party, this could be the last we hear about stop and frisk.

Too Little, Too Late

The Second Circuit's holding was quick, to the point, and basically amounts to "too little, too late":

The unions knew, or should have known, of their alleged interests in these controversial and public cases well before they filed their motions in September 2013. For years now, "stop-and-frisk" has been the subject of extensive public filings and intense media scrutiny. Whatever the merit of the unions' claim that Judge Scheindlin's rulings were incorrectly premised "upon statistical evidence purporting to place 4.4 million stops at issue," allowing the unions to revive a now-settled dispute by intervening at this late juncture would substantially prejudice the existing parties and unduly encroach upon the City's inherent discretion to settle a dispute against it. In other words, granting the unions' motions in the wake of the November 2013 mayoral election would essentially condone a collateral attack on the democratic process and could erode the legitimacy of decisions made by the democratically-elected representatives of the people.

The court also agreed with U.S. District Court Judge Torres' holding that the unions' "reputations" were too indirect and insubstantial of an interest to be "legally protectable."

Anything Left?

Last week's ruling upheld the district court's decision and granted the City of New York's motion to dismiss its appeals. All that's left in the district court is to oversee the settlement.

The settlement is based on the remedial order issued by the original district court judge (Judge Shira Scheindlin, who was removed from the case). The settlement calls for three years of monitoring, and, of course, the end of stop and frisk.

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