On October 31, 2013, the Second Circuit took the unusual step of removing Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin from two high-profile stop-and-frisk cases: Ligon v. City of New York and Floyd v. City of New York. Ligon is a Section 1983 class action challenging the NYPD's trespass arrest policy, or "Operation Clean Halls," a program through which NYPD officers patrol private apartment buildings across New York City. Judge Scheindlin oversaw Ligon since its filing in March 2012. Floyd, also a Section 1983 class action, challenged the NYPD's street-level stop-and-frisk practices, arguing that they amounted to racial profiling. Floyd was filed in January 2008, and immediately assigned to Judge Scheindlin.
The Floyd trial began in March and lasted nine weeks. Thirteen days before the Floyd trial began, the Floyd plaintiffs withdrew all claims for damages, and as a result, Floyd was tried to Judge Scheindlin, not to a jury. Floyd was decided in an August 12, 2013 order spanning 193 pages. Therein, the judge granted a sweeping injunction against the NYPD that ordered changes to NYPD policies and activities, appointed a monitor to oversee stop-and-frisk practices, required a "community-based joint remedial process to be conducted by a court-appointed facilitator," and ordered that one precinct in each of New York City's boroughs place body-worn cameras on their police officers. On the same date, Judge Scheindlin entered a similar decision in Ligon, ordering changes to the NYPD's trespass arrest policies, oversight by the same monitor appointed in Floyd, and revision of NYPD training materials and programs. In its October 31 order, in addition to removing Judge Scheindlin from Floyd and Ligon, the Second Circuit stayed the orders in Floyd and Ligon pending appeal.
But why was Judge Scheindlin removed? In its October 31 order, the Second Circuit found that Judge Scheindlin violated the Code of Conduct for United States Judges due to the appearance of partiality created by her "improper application" of the Southern District's "related cases rule," as well as "by a series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court."