Parties Ask Judge to Resolve Stop/Frisk Motions

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New York Law Journal

June, 2014
Mark Hamblett

The parties in the stop-and-frisk litigation have asked Southern District Judge Analisa Torres ( See Profile) to resolve motions to intervene by police unions who oppose a settlement between the plaintiffs and New York City.

A letter sent Tuesday by plaintiffs' lawyer Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights said both he and the city Law Department need a decision so they can move forward with a critical element of the settlement agreement—the installation of a court-appointed monitor for a three year-term to oversee reforms in the stop-and-frisk practices of the NYPD.

Peter Zimroth, senior counsel with Arnold & Porter, was appointed by Judge Shira Scheindlin ( See Profile) as monitor for the police department in August 2013, when the judge in Floyd v. City of New York, 08 Civ. 1034, found police had engaged in widespread unconstitutional practices whereby young men, the vast majority of whom were black and/or Hispanic, were being stopped by police without reasonable suspicion they were engaged in criminal activity ( NYLJ, Aug. 13, 2013).

But Zimroth was able to just start the process with some preliminary meetings before then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Law Department appealed, saying the judge was wrong on the facts and the law and a monitor would interfere with the effectiveness of the police department.

A motions panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in October stayed Scheindlin's rulings and put Zimroth on hold as the panel entertained a series of motions that included the request of the police unions to intervene.

The Second Circuit's stay came just ahead of the November election of stop-and-frisk critic Bill de Blasio as mayor. Shortly after his inauguration, de Blasio and incoming Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter announced their intention to settle Floyd, but the police unions still wanted in on the case.

In February, the Second Circuit remanded Floyd and a second case for Torres to oversee settlement talks and decide the intervention motions in which police unions claimed a monitor and the court-ordered reforms would interfere with their ability to police the city and impacted their collective bargaining rights ( NYLJ, Feb. 24).

In an April memorandum opposing the city's and plaintiffs' motion to modify Scheindlin's order to reflect their settlement, attorneys for the unions fault the city's "acquiescence in the harmful and erroneous" rulings by the judge.

"The Liability and Remedies Opinions harm the Unions' members' reputations, significantly affect their day-to-day activities, and intrude on their state-law collective bargaining rights," wrote Dechert LLP partners Steven Engel, Edward McDonald and James McGuire and associate Elisa Elisa Wiygul.

In his memorandum opposing the intervention, Carter said granting intervention "would be severely prejudicial to the parties and would frustrate the compelling public interest in allowing this litigation to be finally resolved."

Charney, in his June 10 letter, wrote that it had been 60 days since the parties submitted a joint motion to modify the remedial order signed by Scheindlin. He ascribed the letter to the fact that Torres' motion practices in civil cases directs the parties to notify her when 60 days has elapsed since a motion has been made.

Charney added that it had been 88 days since the police unions' renewed motions were fully briefed, but his larger point was that Zimroth has been on the sidelines far too long and it was time to proceed with the reforms, particularly since de Blasio's ascension to City Hall brought the once-opposing sides in the litigation into alignment.

"The parties believe it is essential to move forward as quickly as possible with the remedial process, given the importance of stop-and-frisk reform and the current commitment of many stakeholders to participate in the remedial process," Charney said in the letter.