Speaking at ABA meeting, federal appeals judge, 96, doesn't address her suspension but mentions opinion pace
A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sidestepped the controversy that has kept her from new case assignments during a keynote presentation at an ABA conference Friday.
But Judge Pauline Newman did address one issue that partly precipitated her troubles—her slow opinion pace, which is exacerbated by the number of dissents that she writes.
Newman, 96, was suspended from new case assignments in September for refusing to cooperate in a probe of her fitness. When the probe began, one of the concerns cited was her “extensive delays in the processing and resolution of cases.” She is fighting the suspension in a lawsuit.
Newman talked about her opinion pace when answering a question about whether she had ever sat by designation on a lower court hearing an intellectual property case.
Newman was appointed to the Federal Circuit by former President Ronald Reagan. She said she had not because it’s time-consuming. and “I always seem to be behind on moving my opinions out.”
The judge, who has been dubbed the Federal Circuit’s “great dissenter,” said her pace is slowed partly because a dissent takes three times as long to write as a majority opinion.
When writing a dissent, she said, “you need to be absolutely meticulous or you lose the clout of your dissent.”
Newman participated in an online Q&A session at the 2023 IP Fall Institute, sponsored by the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law. She was questioned by section chair Steven Caltrider, chief intellectual property counsel at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Newman told Caltrider that dissenting came “more or less naturally” to her because she was raised in a family that was always debating right and wrong.
Dissents can be a powerful teaching tool, Newman said. It’s better not to pull your punches, she said, because if you are too polite, you may not get your point across.
But her proclivity for speaking out in dissents “does not necessarily endear me to those I criticize,” she acknowledged.
“I’ve come to understand that the more people who see that I’m perpendicular, probably the better for me, at least to somehow dispose of the idea that at my age, how could you possibly be not disabled,” she told Law360.
Newman told Law360 that it must be clear to her colleagues that she isn’t disabled, and its possible the other judges dislike her frequent dissents.
“My colleagues are asking to get rid of me, and apparently, what they consider my unpleasant habit of saying what I think when I think they’re wrong,” she said.