Lawyer for federal appeals judge barred from new cases finds orders 'incredible' and 'stunning'

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A lawyer representing a 95-year-old federal appeals judge is criticizing a judicial council’s refusal to assign her new cases and an investigating committee’s new focus on her failure to cooperate.

The judge is Judge Pauline Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The circuit’s judicial council said in a June 5 order that it would not reconsider an earlier March 8 decision to bar her from hearing new cases.

The judicial council cited concerns about Newman’s backlog of cases and questions about her mental fitness.

“The council is particularly concerned that Judge Newman has been unable to make any significant progress on addressing her opinion backlog, despite having three law clerks; having no new cases assigned for April, May, June or July; and not sitting on motions panels since January 2021,” said the judicial council, which is made up of the court’s active judges.

Newman is refusing to cooperate in the investigation until she is assigned new cases and the investigation is transferred to a different court. Orders in the case are available here.

Newman is represented by Gregory Dolin of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a former clerk for Newman. He is one of the lawyers who filed a May 10 lawsuit that seeks to stop or transfer the investigation.

The Washington Post, Law360 and Law.com have coverage.

Dolin told Law360 that it was “stunning” that the judicial council admitted that it suspended Newman from hearing cases March 8, which was more than two weeks before the docketing of a complaint alleging that she suffered from mental deficiencies.

“It’s admitting that there was no notice given to Judge Newman and no opportunity to respond. So this was a secret decision made to remove Judge Newman, a duly appointed and confirmed federal judge from hearing cases,” Dolin said.

Dolin also commented on a June 1 order, which said the investigating committee was narrowing its focus to Newman’s refusal to undergo a medical examination and to provide medical records.

Dolin told Law360 that he found it “incredible” that the committee has stopped its competency evaluation at this time.

“I think it’s really important that the court has left to the side the very thing that started this whole investigation,” Dolin said. “So this suggests that Judge Newman’s abilities are by far not so clear as to really permit her to be suspended.”

Newman is the oldest active federal judge in the nation, according to the Washington Post. She helped create the Federal Circuit in 1982, when she served on a presidential committee. She was then nominated to the court by former President Ronald Reagan.

“If I really were debilitated, as they say, physically and mentally, I hope I’d have the sense to step down,” Newman told the Washington Post. “But as it is, I feel that I can make a contribution and must. That’s what I was appointed to do.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Competency concerns lead to investigation of 95-year-old appeals judge”

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

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