Judge Pauline Newman, 96, of the U.S. Federal Appeals Court, has been prohibited from hearing cases for a year in a highly publicized and controversial dispute. This is because a panel decided that she refused to undergo medical testing because there were worries about her mental health, which may have affected her ability to serve on the bench.
This is the most recent twist in a long-running dispute over Judge Newman’s retention of her nearly forty-year career on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is located in Washington. She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and asserts that she is mentally and physically capable of making decisions regarding legal matters. She also charges her colleagues of making unfounded accusations against her in an effort to remove her because of her advanced age.
One of the 13 appellate courts in the country, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit hears claims involving government contracts, patents, trademarks, and other matters. These courts have lifetime appointments of federal judges who are not required to retire.
Judge Newman’s colleagues on the Federal Circuit’s Judicial Council determined that the suspension was required because she refused to cooperate with an inquiry into her mental health. The council stated that it had “reasonable concerns” regarding her capacity to “discharge the duties of her office effectively due to a disability.” She is prohibited from overseeing any new cases under the suspension, even though it was put in place during the investigation in April.
Greg Dolin, Newman’s attorney, intends to request a review from a commission that monitors court behavior nationwide, claiming that the process has been faulty and that the punishment is legally irrational. Dolin took issue with the Judicial Council, saying it seemed to accept any accusation in order to justify what he saw as an already-made decision.
Judge Newman filed a federal lawsuit against her fellow judges in May, claiming that Chief Judge Kimberly Moore’s requests for her resignation were the reason behind the probe.
Memory loss, disorientation, psychosis, and agitation were among the symptoms of “significant mental deterioration,” according to interviews with court employees that the Judicial Council highlighted. In comparison to her colleagues, the order highlighted her difficulty recalling recent events, conversations, and basic facts provided by court workers. It also mentioned a backlog of cases and delayed opinions.
In response to these accusations, Newman’s legal team presented a statement from a licensed neurologist claiming that her mental capacity is enough for court proceedings. Additionally, they provided data showing that her productivity has not declined.
Chief Judge Moore and the appointed committee were accused by Newman’s lawyers in their reply of ignoring facts and abusing their authority in a way that violated laws, constitutional limits, due process, conflict of interest rules, and even basic justice.
Judge Newman’s eligibility for office is under question, and this has sparked a contentious legal and moral discussion that highlights the challenges of aging judges and their role in the legal system. The decision in this case could have a big impact on the current discussion over judges’ roles as they age.