HomeCrimeJudge Pauline Newman still suspended from Federal Circuit

Judge Pauline Newman still suspended from Federal Circuit

U.S. Circuit Judge Pauline Newman, 96, was suspended from hearing cases after the Judicial Council of the Federal Circuit unanimously found that the judge’s refusal to submit to a mental examination was improper. Newman, a Ronald Reagan appointee, was, until the council’s order, the oldest federal judge still on the bench. (Screengrab via YouTube).

A 96-year-old federal appellate court judge whose co-workers say has been habitually confused and belligerent scored a partial win in court Monday against the panel of fellow judges she sued after being suspended. That suspension was upheld last Wednesday, and the judge is still not permitted to retake the bench.

Ronald Reagan appointee U.S. Circuit Judge Pauline Newman is the oldest judge on the federal judiciary. Newman served for nearly four decades on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit until she was suspended in September by the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into her mental capacity.

Newman’s mental health and fitness to serve was called into question after colleagues complained that her docket dragged woefully behind an appropriate timeline, and raised concerns about the judge’s inappropriate behavior. Ultimately, an investigation was conducted at the behest of the committee and investigators found “overwhelming evidence” of Newman’s memory loss, lack of comprehension, and confusion, and said the judge was often “frustrated, agitated, belligerent, and hostile towards court staff.” They provided numerous examples of Newman’s problematic behavior, ranging from threatening to have her own staff arrested to incoherent and paranoid rambling.

Last September, the committee issued a lengthy written decision in which is said that although Newman “served with distinction” and was “the most beloved colleague on our court,” that it had “increasing doubts” as to whether the nonagenarian could properly fulfill her duties on the bench.

The committee directed Newman to undergo a 30-45-minute interview with a neurologist and a full neuropsychological examination with hours of cognitive testing, but the judge refused. Newman also refused to provide the committee with medical records from the prior two years dealing with cognitive deficiencies and fatigue. Instead, Newman offered her own medical experts, who she said would examine her for a much shorter period of time. The committee responded with a suspension.

After Newman was informed that she would no longer be assigned new cases over which to preside, lawyers filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf in which Newman sued Chief Circuit Judge Kimberly A. Moore and all the other Federal Circuit judges on the committee over their handling of the complaints about Newman’s mental capacity. In the lawsuit, Newman challenged not only the actions taken against her, but also the legal provisions that allowed the judicial committee to issue the suspension order.

Newman was represented in the lawsuit by New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a public-interest law firm that focuses on the “administrative state.” The same firm also represented Newman in a direct challenge of the committee’s ruling on her suspension, which is proceeding separately.

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