Wall Street Journal
November 7, 2013

Unions Seek 'Frisk' Suit Role

Aim to Appeal If de Blasio Makes Good on Pledge to Drop Case


Four New York Police Department unions moved Thursday to position themselves to appeal a federal-court ruling on the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practice in the event Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio makes good on his pledge to drop the appeal once he is in office.

A motion filed Thursday with a federal appellate court seeks to make the unions party to the city's appeal of U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin's ruling in August. She found the stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional and ordered the installation of a monitor to oversee changes.

The motion was filed on behalf of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the Detectives Endowment Association, the Lieutenants Benevolent Association and the Captains Endowment Association.

The unions' lawyers cited Mr. de Blasio's public support for Judge Scheindlin's ruling and his brief opposing the city's ultimately successful bid to stay it. They said the ruling should "be reviewed on the merits" so it "will not saddle the NYPD and its members for years to come."

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the motion was filed "in order to ensure that our members have a voice in this critically important proceeding."

The lawyers representing plaintiffs in the two class actions challenging stop and frisk litigated before Judge Scheindlin were skeptical the unions' motion would prevail.

"This is a transparent attempt to block the incoming administration's commitment to reform stop and frisk," said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Much as the unions may want to keep alive an appeal that the new mayor has made clear he will withdraw, they are not parties to this litigation."

Darius Charney, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the stop-and-frisk lawsuits named only the city as defendants—not the NYPD or its officers—and it was only the city the judge deemed liable. "I just don't see how they have standing to appeal the decision," he said.

In September, the unions filed a motion in federal court seeking inclusion in the appeal. That motion was still pending when a three-judge panel from the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Judge Scheindlin's ruling last week and indicated it would take up the case in March.

But with Mr. de Blasio taking office in January, the union is hoping to establish legal standing to continue to fight Judge Scheindlin's ruling if the new mayor drops the city's appeal, said attorney Steven Engle, who filed the union's motion.

The Second Circuit also ordered Judge Scheindlin removed from the case, finding she acted in a manner that compromised the appearance of impartiality. She filed a motion Tuesday challenging that removal.

Write to Sean Gardiner at sean.gardiner@wsj.com