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Stop-and-Frisk Ruling Hands Victory to Legal Team that Includes Professor Rachel Lopez

Professor Rachel E. Lopez

August 13, 2013

A federal court ruled on Aug. 12 that stop-and-frisk practices by police in New York City are unconstitutional, upholding arguments made by a team of attorneys that includes Professor Rachel Lopez.

Judge Shira Scheindlin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York found that, by routinely stopping and frisking minorities without a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, police had violated their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.  Scheindlin appointed an attorney to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the Constitution.

Lopez, who recently joined the law school faculty, was a cooperating attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the plaintiffs in the case. 

“The landmark ruling on NYPD’s stop and frisk practices confirms what many New Yorkers already know from their experience:  the NYPD has developed a pattern and practice of using race, not reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, as the basis for stopping New York residents,” Lopez said.  “This case also sends a message that the NYPD  needs to be part of the solution and work with the community to resolve the serious issues with their policing practices, rather than denying that a problem exists.” 

In her ruling, Scheindlin cited evidence presented at the trial of an unwritten policy of targeting “the right people” for stops, finding that the department’s practice amounts to “a form of racial profiling.”