Predictably, the lawyers who brought the city to court over stop-and-frisk are trying to get U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin back on the case, two weeks after a three-judge panel removed her. The panel ruled, properly, that Judge Scheindlin was less than impartial on the subject of stop-and-frisk, having condemned this life-saving police practice in several media interviews.
In filing their motion last Monday, the lawyers and the Center for Constitutional Rights argued that Judge Scheindlin’s removal was “gratuitous.” It wasn’t, but that’s a pretty good description of the judge’s criticism of the New York Police Department. The judge, quite simply, can barely hide her hostility toward those who put their lives on the line to keep the streets safe.
Her ruling against stop-and-frisk was predetermined from the moment she arranged to be assigned the case. That’s not how the judicial system should work. But it’s hardly a wonder that the lawyers who challenged stop-and-frisk want her back. (The Observer reported this week that those lawyers made out far better than their clients.) With a more-impartial judge on the case, the fate of stop-and-frisk may depend on actual arguments rather than knee-jerk ideology.
We’ll never know how many lives stop-and-frisk has saved over the years, but it’s fair to assume that it has played no small role in driving down the city’s homicide rate. It’s also fair to assume that bad actors like 16-year-old Corey Dunton, the alleged gunman who wounded two people in Bryant Park over the weekend, will be more inclined to carry guns on their social excursions if they have no fear of being stopped and frisked.
The sneering suspect seemed all too pleased with himself when he was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs on Monday, even as one of his alleged victims, a 14-year-old high school freshman, wonders if he is paralyzed for life.
Stop-and-frisk is designed to wipe the sneer off the face of thugs like the Bryant Park suspect. It’s intended to send a message to those who would carry guns to a skating rink, just in case they spot an innocent skater with an expensive coat they’d like to steal.
Incidents like the Bryant Park shooting are rare in New York, as Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly pointed out. And why is that? It’s because would-be shooters fear that the cops are watching them and have the authority to act.
The future of stop-and-frisk remains murky as the new de Blasio administration prepares to take office. But one thing seems certain: Judge Scheindlin deserves to be nowhere near this case. She can peddle her ideology in the media, not in the courtroom.