A federal appeals court blocked an earlier ruling on changes to NYPD's controversial “stop and frisk” policy and booted the judge off the case.
Opponents of New York's stop-and-frisk policy cheered a judge this summer when she ruled the law unconstitutional and ordered a series of changes. But on Thursday, a higher court kicked Judge Shira Scheindlin off the case and put her decision on hold, accusing her of impropriety.
“Upon review of the record in these cases, we conclude that the District Judge ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Canon 2."
Scheindlin has given multiple media interviews, which critics pointed to as proof she was not impartial.. "I know I'm not their favorite judge," Scheindlin told the Associated Press, in reference to the city government. And she told the New York Law Journal that a lot of judges are wary of issuing controversial rulings for fear it will hurt their career prospects.
At issue in the case is a New York police policy that has been criticized for stopping minorities disproportionately. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the number of stop-and-frisks skyrocketed to a high in 2011. Out of that year’s 684,330 stops, most were black and Hispanic men, according to the AP.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, an advocacy group that won the challenge in the lower court, called Thursday's decision "troubling and unprecedented." The group also said the judge was smeared in a "whisper campaign" carried out by unnamed city officials.
"We are dismayed that the Court of Appeals saw fit to delay the long-overdue process to remedy the NYPD’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices, and we are shocked that they cast aspersions on the professional conduct of one of the most respected members of the federal judiciary and reassigned the case," the group said in a written statement.
Communities United for Police Reform, another advocacy group opposed to the policing practice, pointed out that the decision could drag out the legal process. “Justice delayed is justice denied, and this delay to reforming the city’s stop-and-frisk program will be to the detriment of communities and New Yorkers throughout our city who have routinely had their rights violated and been made to fear both crime and the police," spokesperson Joo-Hyun Kang said in a written statement.
NBC News contributed to this report.