By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lawyers for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will ask an appeals court to immediately overturn a ruling deeply critical of the city's "stop-and-frisk" police tactic, seeking a decision before his successor takes office.
By asking for immediate action, the city appears to be trying to speed up the process before January 1, when mayor-elect Bill de Blasio takes office. De Blasio has been a fierce critic of stop-and-frisk, calling it a form of racial profiling.
Aides to de Blasio say the mayor-elect agrees with the original ruling and, once sworn in, will drop the city's appeal.
Bloomberg and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, have called stop-and-frisk a critical component to the city's anti-crime approach and a historic drop in violent crime.
In August, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled it unconstitutional, saying it amounted to "indirect racial profiling," and ordered a raft of police reforms under the supervision of a federal monitor.
But last week - in an extremely rare move - the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Scheindlin off the case because she "ran afoul" of the judicial conduct code in media interviews and by encouraging the plaintiffs in the case to file the lawsuit.
A city law department spokeswoman said the city would file papers next week asking that the Scheindlin ruling be vacated immediately in light of the court's decision.
The 2nd Circuit's decision removing Scheindlin did not address the merits of her ruling. The city's appeal on those issues had been scheduled to be heard in the spring.
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents the plaintiffs in a second stop-and-frisk case that is also part of the appeal, called the city's move a "desperate attempt to erase the judicial finding" of unconstitutional discrimination.
Scheindlin filed her own court papers on Wednesday, asserting that the 2nd Circuit erred in removing her and asking the court to reconsider.
Separately on Thursday, two police unions also said they would seek permission from the court to continue the appeal if de Blasio abandons it.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Edith Honan and Ken Wills)