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

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Photo illustration by Sara Wadford/ABA Journal/Shutterstock.

Judge Pauline Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has until May 23 to decide whether she will submit to a medical examination for competency with two specialists, according to a May 16 order by a three-judge investigative committee that details the reasons for its concerns.

The committee also said the 95-year-old judge must decide by that date whether to turn over medical records to the neurologist that it selected and whether she will appear for a videotaped interview with the committee.

The special committee was appointed to investigate Newman after concerns were raised about her ability to perform her duties. The order declared that it is “long past time” for Newman to begin cooperating and to undergo examinations “to remove the cloud that will linger over all cases in which she participates while such concerns exist.”

The committee said its investigation revealed “significant concerns.” Newman shows “abnormal delays” in issuing opinions, and staff members have raised concerns “about her comprehension, confusion, short-term memory loss, agitation and lack of focus,” the order said.

Reuters, Law360 and Bloomberg Law are among the publications that covered the investigative committee’s order.

The committee cited allegations that:

  • Newman can’t perform simple tasks, such as logging in to a computer or remembering where files are saved.
  • Newman frequently complains that her email and computer have been hacked and sometimes says her phone has been bugged. At first, she blamed bloggers and the news media, and more recently, she said the court was doing the hacking. Information technology staffers uncovered no evidence of hacking.
  • Newman was unable to complete mandatory security awareness training because she repeatedly failed multiple-choice questions about the training video.
  • Newman at one point said Chief Judge Howard Markey told her that she didn’t have to comply with a particular court rule. Markey has been dead for almost 17 years and has not been a member of the court for 32 years.
  • Two of Newman’s five staff members recently resigned and requested no further contact with Newman. Newman had threatened to have one of those staff members arrested. A third staff member cited her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent when asked basic questions about her role and responsibilities.

The investigative committee rejected Newman’s renewed request to transfer the investigation to another circuit. She has also filed a lawsuit seeking to stop or transfer the investigation.

One member of the special investigative committee is Chief Judge Kimberly A. Moore, who initiated a complaint against Newman based on allegations that were received. Other special committee members are Judges Richard G. Taranto and Sharon Prost.

Newman is represented by John J. Vecchione of the New Civil Liberties Alliance. He told Law360 that the committee didn’t sufficiently address why it was refusing to transfer the investigation to another circuit court.

“It really seems that any of these questions could be answered by a more neutral tribunal,” Vecchione said.

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