New York City’s argument for immunity from thousands of respiratory damages claims against itself and the contractors who cleaned up the World Trade Center site ran into some tough questions Monday from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judges Jon Newman, Sonia Sotomayor and Richard Wesley barely let James Tyrrell of Patton Boggs, who represents the city, clear his throat before aggressively challenging whether the municipality even had the right to appeal, pretrial, a federal judge’s decision denying immunity under the New York State Defense Emergency Act or other immunity doctrines.