The lawyers asked the full 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan to consider the decision by a three-judge panel last month to remove U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin after she concluded that the stop-frisk program discriminated against minorities. The panel said the judge ran afoul of the code of conduct for U.S. judges by misapplying a ruling that allowed her to take the case and by giving media interviews during a trial earlier this year.
Attorneys for law firms and the Center for Constitutional Rights who sued on behalf of people who had been stopped and frisked said that the appeals panel had issued "an apparently unprecedented and procedurally defective order" without giving the judge a chance to defend herself and without seeking input from the parties in the case.
"The removal of Judge Scheindlin appears gratuitous and deeply flawed," the lawyers wrote. "This extraordinary action merits review by the full court."
Plaintiffs in the case "may suffer prejudice from reassignment to a judge unfamiliar with the complexities of the case," the lawyers said, noting that Scheindlin had presided over the litigation for nearly six years, writing her findings in a 198-page opinion following a nine-week trial that featured more than 100 witnesses.
"The undue waste of judicial resources and potential prejudice to Plaintiffs from a reassignment - after almost six years of litigation, a nine-week trial, and a finding of liability, and before remedies have been developed or so-ordered - is tremendous," the lawyers said.
The lawyers also asked that the three-judge panel reconsider their ruling or step aside and permit another panel to be assigned to the case.
Scheindlin found that stop-and-frisk discriminated against minorities and appointed a monitor and a facilitator to find better ways to operate stop-and-frisk tactics. The three-judge appeals panel did not rule on the merits of her decision, putting off oral arguments until next year.
In the last week, the city has asked the appeals court to throw out her decision, saying Scheindlin's actions should nullify her conclusions, and a lawyer for Scheindlin has asked it to let him argue on her behalf.
Stop and frisk has been around for decades, but recorded stops increased dramatically in the last decade to an all-time high in 2011 of 684,330, mostly of black and Hispanic men. To make a stop, police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred, a standard lower than the probable cause needed to justify an arrest. Only about 10 percent of the stops result in arrests or summonses, and weapons are found about 2 percent of the time.
Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio has said he would drop the city's appeal of Scheindlin's ruling but he could also settle with those urging reforms, which would eliminate federal oversight.