New York Times
February 21, 2014


Another Step on the Path to Settling Frisk Cases

By BENJAMIN WEISER

A federal appeals panel in Manhattan cleared the way on Friday for the lawsuits challenging the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices to be sent back to a lower-court judge, a step toward negotiating a final settlement in the longstanding legal dispute.

The city and the plaintiffs had sought to have the case sent back to the United States District Court, where they were seeking approval of a deal that would essentially put in place changes ordered by Judge Shira A. Scheindlin last summer, including the appointment of a monitor.

Several police unions that criticized Judge Scheindlin’s decision had opposed returning the case to the trial court. They sought to intervene and wanted the appeals court to decide the appeal of Judge Scheindlin’s ruling by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in January that he would seek a broad settlement.

But in its ruling Friday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said it was preferable for the unions’ motion to be handled in District Court, “particularly because the appropriateness of intervention and the form it takes could well bear on settlement negotiations.”

The panel, comprising Judges John M. Walker Jr., José A. Cabranes and Barrington D. Parker Jr., ordered the case sent to a lower court judge to supervise settlement discussions “among such concerned or interested parties” as the judge “deems appropriate, and resolving the motions to intervene.”

Judge Analisa Torres has been assigned to the cases in District Court, and the panel said she could hold hearings, if necessary.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said, “Our mission has always been to gain a seat at the table in order to protect our members’ rights and reputations.”

The city’s Law Department said the appeals panel had “recognized the city’s interest in resolving the case, which we now intend to do in the District Court.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs — people who had been stopped by the police — said they saw the ruling as significant, and a signal that the appeals court would not stand in the way of the de Blasio administration’s decision to settle the cases and make needed changes.