February 21, 2023
Selection of First Muslim-American Representative to Important Oversight Panel Underscores Mayor's Commitment to Ensuring Justice and Safety for All New Yorkers
New York – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced the appointment of Muhammad U. Faridi as the independent civilian representative to the New York City Police Department's (NYPD) Handschu Committee. The Handschu Guidelines – set forth under a 1985 consent decree – regulate the NYPD's policies and practices regarding investigations of political activity. The committee plays a critical oversight role in ensuring compliance with the terms of the agreement, including when the NYPD opens or extends investigations into political activity. Mayor Adams' appointee, Faridi, will be the first Muslim-American to be appointed to the role and replaces former U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson of the Southern District of New York, who served as the city's first independent civilian representative.
"As a former police officer and co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, I am deeply committed to fairness and accountability in policing. And, as mayor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of their background, enjoy equal protection under the law," said Mayor Adams. "Muhammad Faridi is an experienced litigator who has served as the chair of the executive committee of the New York City Bar Association and on the Mayor's Advisory Committee on the Judiciary. We are proud he will continue to serve all New Yorkers as the civilian representative on the Handschu Committee."
"Muhammad Faridi is an accomplished attorney with exceptional judgment and a track record of effective advocacy for underrepresented groups," said City Hall Chief Counsel Brendan McGuire. "His historic appointment reflects Mayor Adams' commitment to ensuring the Handschu Committee continues to benefit from an independent, rigorous, and fair-minded civilian representative. We appreciate Mr. Faridi's willingness to serve in this position and are grateful to his predecessor, Judge Stephen Robinson, for his years of dedicated service."
"The city is committed to furthering public safety while ensuring that the civil rights of individuals are protected," said New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix. "The Handschu Committee plays a vital role in making sure that goal is met. I congratulate the mayor on this appointment and thank Mr. Faridi for agreeing to serve the city in this critical position."
"We welcome the appointment of Mr. Faridi as the independent civilian representative to the Handschu Committee," said NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. "We look forward to working with him to strengthen community relations, ensure further confidence in the NYPD's intelligence gathering processes, and keep our city safe."
"The independent civilian representative on the Handschu Committee plays an important role in ensuring that Americans from all backgrounds are treated fairly and equally under our nation's laws. The representative is charged with monitoring police investigations relating to sensitive matters (including those relating to political activity and terrorism) and reporting any abuse of civil liberties to the NYPD commissioner and the federal judge assigned to the Handschu case," said Muhammad Faridi, Mayor Adams' appointee to the Hanschu Committee. "I am honored that Mayor Adams has selected me for this role. I look forward to working with all constituents of the Handschu Committee in ensuring that there is transparency and fairness in some of the most important work that the NYPD does to keep our city and country safe."
Following the resolution of two federal lawsuits alleging the improper investigations of the Muslim community in 2017, New York City created the Handschu Committee and a civilian representative that serves on the committee. The committee hears the basis for opening, extending, and closing investigations into political activity, including terrorism investigations. If the civilian representative believes an investigation does not meet the required legal threshold under the Handschu Guidelines, they are empowered to report any abuses to the NYPD commissioner and the federal judge assigned to the Handschu case. The independent civilian representative serves a five-year term. The NYPD has nine members on the Handschu Committee, include the deputy commissioner of intelligence, the chief of intelligence, the executive officer of the intelligence bureau, the commanding officer of the intelligence operations and analysis section (IOAS), the executive officer of IOAS, the commanding officer of the criminal intelligence section, the assistant commissioner for intelligence analysis, the deputy commissioner of legal matters, and the special counsel for intelligence affairs.
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar said: "As the first South Asian woman elected to New York State Office and Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Diversity in Law, I congratulate Muhammad Faridi on becoming the first Muslim American appointed to the Handschu Committee. Mr. Faridi is eminently qualified to serve on this critically important committee that ensures our civil liberties and religious freedom. He has a distinguished career in corporate law, and has served on the Mayor's Advisory Committee on the Judiciary, held multiple positions in the New York City Bar Association, represented refugees in court, and taught at Fordham Law School. I thank Mayor Adams for once again demonstrating his commitment to an inclusive administration that represents the diversity of our Gorgeous Mosaic."
"We applaud Mayor Adams for continuing the position of civilian representative on the Handschu Committee and for recognizing that his work has been beneficial to the people of the City of New York and to our police department," said Paul Chevigny, Jethro Eisenstein, Martin Stolar, Franklin Siegel, and Arthur Eisenberg, class counsel in Handschu v. Police Department of the City of New York. "We are deeply grateful to Hon. Stephen Robinson for his dedicated service as the first civilian representative on the Handschu Committee. Judge Robinson showed that the civilian representative, by bringing an outside voice to the deliberations of the NYPD, encouraged critical thinking and mindfulness of the rights at stake. We welcome the appointment of Muhammad Faridi as the new civilian representative. We are confident that he will bring to bear the same dedication and vigilance."
"The civilian representative position is an important feature of the protections from NYPD surveillance that the Raza plaintiffs secured for all New Yorkers," said Ramzi Kassem, CUNY professor of law (on leave); founding director, CLEAR; and counsel to the plaintiffs in Raza v. City of New York. "As an accomplished and reputable attorney hailing from the same Muslim communities that bore the brunt of police spying in our city for decades, Muhammad Faridi is an inspired choice as the next civilian representative. I look forward to working with him and extend my gratitude to Judge Stephen Robinson for his years of service as the inaugural civilian representative."
"Asian-American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) applauds Mayor Adams for appointing Muhammad Faridi as the civilian representative to the Handschu Committee, the first Muslim-American to hold the role," said Christopher Bae, membership director, AABANY. "With the Handschu Committee charged to ensure that the NYPD is not improperly investigating the Muslim community, it's long overdue that the Muslim community have representation on the committee. When a government has full participation from its multiracial and diverse religious communities, we are all better for it."
"As advocates for more than 1 million Muslim New Yorkers, we commend Mayor Adams for listening to impacted communities and welcome the decision to appoint Muhammad Faridi as the civilian representative to the Handschu Committee," said Ahmed Mohamed, legal director, Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York. "Mr. Faridi has a proven commitment to justice, inclusion, and equity. We look forward to working with Mr. Faridi to protect New Yorkers' constitutionally protected religious and political rights."
"The Muslim Bar Association of New York congratulates Mr. Faridi on being appointed as the civilian representative to the Handschu Committee by Mayor Adams and on being the first Muslim-American in this role," said Lejla Hadzic, president, Muslim Bar Association of New York. "We are reminded that the role of the civilian representative was created as part of the settlement agreement in Muslim surveillance lawsuits. Mr. Faridi has been a dedicated and active member of our community and the Muslim Bar Association of New York, has served as a mentor to many of our lawyers, and has been a relentless advocate for criminal justice and equal rights in his pro bono practice. He is exceptionally prepared to make certain that safeguards in the settlement and in the Handschu Guidelines are followed and to ensure that the fundamentals of civil liberties will be protected for each and every New Yorker."
"The South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY) celebrates the appointment of Muhammad Faridi to the Handschu Committee," said Meghan Jain, president, SABANY. "Faridi's extensive work in the legal field as a top trial attorney and his commitment to pro bono work make him a great fit for the role. We couldn't be prouder to see the first Muslim-American hold this title and work on a committee that will protect everyday New Yorkers. We are happy to see Mayor Adams and his administration truly values diversity and equal opportunity to all."
About Muhammad Faridi
Muhammad U. Faridi is the independent civilian representative to the Handschu Committee. He currently is a partner in the litigation department of the law firm Patterson Belknap. He is a litigator on complex commercial matters involving breach of contract and commercial tort claims, and has represented clients in several industries, including commercial real estate, hedge funds, real estate investment trusts, insurance, manufacturing, software, pharmaceuticals, and nonprofit organizations. He also devotes a substantial part of his legal practice to pro bono work, including the representation of refugees, death row inmates, and children with disabilities.
In 2021, he was elected to the American Law Institute, the leading independent organization in the nation producing scholarly work to modernize and improve the law. He has also served as the chair of the executive committee of the New York City Bar Association, as well as the chair of its committee on capital punishment and co-chair of the committee on the recruitment and retention of lawyers, which focuses on enhancing diversity in the profession.
In April 2022, Faridi was appointed to serve on the New York City Mayor's Advisory Committee on the Judiciary, entrusted to help ensure the judicial nominations to criminal and family courts, as well as interim appointments to civil court, of candidates with the highest qualifications and from diverse backgrounds.
Prior to joining Patterson Belknap, Faridi served as a law clerk to Senior U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York.
Faridi is a graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and City University of New York Law School.