Federal appeals judge, 96, suspended after refusing to cooperate in mental fitness probe

  • Print

Judge Pauline Newman Wikimedia Commons

Judge Pauline Newman, 96, was suspended in a unanimous Sept. 20 order. Photo by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, PD US Courts, via Wikimedia Commons.

A 96-year-old federal appeals judge who may be experiencing “significant mental problems” has been suspended from case assignments for a year after she refused to cooperate in a probe of her fitness for the bench, according to a Sept. 20 order.

Judge Pauline Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was suspended in a unanimous Sept. 20 order by the judicial council of the Federal Circuit.

The order says Newman refused to submit to medical evaluations, provide medical records and sit for an interview. An appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, she was the oldest active federal judge in the nation, according to prior coverage.

Bloomberg Law, Reuters and Law360 have coverage.

Newman is represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which says any investigation should have been transferred to another circuit court. Her lawyer, Gregory Dolin, told Reuters that the judicial council was “ignoring data or information or opinions that are inconsistent with its predetermined goals and outcomes.”

Newman has sued to halt the probe and will challenge the order, Dolin said. She has cited the opinions of two of her doctors who say she is fit to continue her job.

In its order, the judicial council said Newman and her lawyers “have aggressively sought to discredit this entire process by trying their case in the press” while “conjuring a narrative” of hostile treatment and personal animosity.

“There is no evidence to support these claims,” the judicial council said.

The judicial council said an investigation of Newman “provided overwhelming evidence that Judge Newman may be experiencing significant mental problems, including memory loss, lack of comprehension, confusion and an inability to perform basic tasks.” As she struggled with those tasks, “she became frustrated, agitated, belligerent and hostile towards court staff,” the order said.

The council’s conclusions were based on interviews and a review of Newman’s emails.

The order also noted that Newman’s workload was significantly reduced starting in 2021. Since then, “she has taken four times as long to issue half the number of opinions as her colleagues,” the order says.

See also:

“Federal appeals judge should be suspended for failing to cooperate in mental fitness probe, report says”

“Investigations of federal judges are rare and should happen more, former clerk says”

“How can aging judges know when it’s time to hang up the robe?”

“Competency concerns lead to investigation of 95-year-old appeals judge”

“Federal circuit judge, 95, flunked security training, displayed hacking paranoia, exam order alleges”

“Weekly Briefs: 96-year-old judge must mediate suit to keep job; DOJ reverses stance on Trump shield”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.