Judge Denies Police Unions’ Motion in Stop-and-Frisk Litigation

New York City police unions recently attempted to intervene to halt a settlement between plaintiffs and New York City in the stop-and-frisk cases.  Judge Analisa Torres denied the unions’ motions.

Last summer, in Floyd v. City of New York, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of New York’s Southern District held that the New York City Police Department’s practice of routinely targeting people of color and subjecting them to Terry frisks without reasonable suspicion violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.  A monitor was appointed to ensure that the NYPD complied with Judge Scheindlin’s remedial order, and the city appealed.   Various police unions made Rule 24 motions to intervene as defendants.  The Second Circuit remanded the case to Judge Torres.  Upon Mayor de Blasio’s inauguration, the city announced its willingness to settle.

Though the city was ready to settle, the police unions still sought to intervene as defendants to prosecute the appeals.  Judge Torres denied the motions to intervene, noting that “the motions are untimely, the Unions have no significant protectable interests relating to the subject of the litigation that would warrant intervention, and even if their alleged interests were cognizable, the Unions lack standing to vindicate those interests on appeal.”

The unions argued their motions were timely, because they were filed within thirty days of the Liability and Remedial Orders.  Judge Torres disagreed, writing that “the intervention clock started to run from the moment the unions became aware or should have become aware that they had interests in the subject matter of the litigation not otherwise protected by the existing parties to the lawsuit.”  The court rejected several rationales the unions had offered for the timing of their motions.

The unions’ motions were essentially based on two alleged interests.  The unions argued that Judge Scheindlin’s findings damaged the reputation of NYPD officers, and that the Remedial Order threatened the unions’ right to engage in collective bargaining over the terms and conditions of their members’ employment.  The court rejected both of these arguments.

Judge Torres also noted that the unions lacked appellate standing.  Judge Torres quoted Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in Hollingsworth v. Perry, in which Roberts wrote “[w]e have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to . . . .”

The plaintiffs and New York City are one step closer to reaching a settlement.  Hopefully the settlement will protect New Yorkers from unconstitutional searches and seizures.