August 13 2013
Judge's Ruling: Bonfire of the Inanities
A liberal federal judge today ruled against a program that is credited with reducing crime in New York.
Nobody is surprised that Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that New York’s crime-stopping “stop and frisk” policies are unconstitutional—it was a foregone conclusion. The Wall Street Journal this morning notes (subscription required):
Her ruling was expected given her antipolice bent, but that makes it all the more surprising that her evidence is so thin and unpersuasive.
The ruling was in a class-action lawsuit, Floyd V. New York City, that claimed that the New York police were stopping and frisking people on the basis of race. It is true that blacks and Hispanics are stopped more frequently. But there is an unpleasant truth behind that. Minorities are responsible for a disproportionate percentage of crimes in New York. Law-abiding minorities will bear the brunt of the judge's ruling by facing more crime in their neighborhoods.
The Journal reviews the way the judge reached her ruling:
Judge Scheindlin writes in her opinion that after reviewing the 19 stops, "I find that nine of the stops and frisks were unconstitutional—that is, they were not based on reasonable suspicion." In five others she ruled that the stops were OK but the resulting frisks were unconstitutional. And in five others neither the stop nor the frisk was unconstitutional.
So we're down to 14 or fewer out of 4.4 million, which hardly suggests a policy or custom at all. But let's look a little closer at those 14. They include a February 2008 stop of David Floyd, the named plaintiff who, along with another man, was observed trying numerous keys and jostling a door in an area where a series of burglaries had recently been reported. Because burglary is often a violent crime, the judge thought the cops were justified in stopping and frisking the mens' outer garments but went too far in checking Mr. Floyd's pockets. Therefore the judge ruled that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.
Then there's Clive Lino, stopped and frisked in 2011 because he matched the description of a homicide suspect from a wanted poster distributed to officers that morning—right down to his red leather Pelle Pelle jacket. Here again the judge saw a reasonable stop and even a reasonable frisk, but a frisk that went too far and created another alleged Fourth Amendment violation.
In other stop instances, the judge makes clear that she ruled for the plaintiffs simply because she did not believe the police. Abandoning her pose of impartiality, the judge concludes her opinion with an appeal to the authority of—not the Constitution or some eminent jurist—but a newspaper column about Trayvon Martin.
While the judge didn’t ban “stop and frisk” altogether, she added yet another police monitor to the nine that already exist. This will make it harder for the police to do their job. Commentary blogger Seth Mandel nailed what the ruling means:
[Judge Scheindlin's'] lack of remorse in sacrificing the safety of minorities to pursue her activist crusade against the police was only part of the inanity of her decision.
Of course, Judge Scheindlin and the well-heeled activists who are responsible for the suit don’t know much about this. They don’t live in the kinds of neighborhoods that will be affected by the judge’s indulging her own vanities. But this is the face of modern liberalism.