The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit suspended Reagan-appointed Judge Pauline Newman on Wednesday, after a panel of judges said Newman—who has denied the claims—failed to cooperate with an investigation into her mental fitness following complaints that suggest she may have “significant mental problems.”
Newman, 96, was barred from hearing new cases for at least one year or until she completes court-ordered medical examinations, according to an order issued Wednesday by a panel of judges for the Washington, D.C.-based court.
Newman failed to comply with an order from May 16 requiring her to submit to medical testing, produce medical records and sit for an interview, after complaints indicated “reasonable concerns” that she had a disability, according to the order.
The panel suggested it would “prefer a different outcome” for Newman, adding a suspension is necessary when “it appears that a judge of this court is no longer capable of performing the duties of her judicial office.”
Attorneys representing Newman released a letter earlier this month from a psychiatrist determining Newman had “no substantial emotional, medical or psychiatric disability” that would prevent her from serving on the court, though the panel ruled the examination was not “remotely an adequate substitute” for what it requested.
“We are acutely aware that this is not a fitting capstone to Judge Newman’s exemplary and storied career,” the panel wrote.
Judge Edith Jones wrote a letter in August for the Wall Street Journal in defense of Newman, whom Jones described as a “friend of mine.” Jones said Newman was “being imposed” a “career-ending removal” by her court, “with no time limit and with little heed for the regulations and case law.” Jones suggested the “normal application” of misconduct violations requires a judge be transferred to another circuit, adding: “Why the usual practice isn’t followed here is inexplicable.”
Newman is the oldest active federal judge in the U.S. and was appointed to the Federal Circuit by former President Ronald Reagan in 1984, according to the Washington Post.
An investigation was opened by the Federal Circuit in March, after the court received two complaints about Newman’s “cognitive state.” The investigation—spanning 20 interviews with court staff and emails sent by Newman—provided “overwhelming evidence” that Newman was “experiencing significant mental problems,” including memory loss, comprehension loss, confusion and an “inability to perform basic tasks.” Newman previously accused staff of “trickery, deceit, acting as her adversary, stealing her computer” and stealing her files. Some staff indicated Newman would become combative amid “hostile” rants. Newman and her attorneys have denied claims against her, including a lawsuit filed by Newman in May that alleges the court is violating the Constitution by “unlawfully” removing her from office without impeaching her. Newman has also requested the investigation be transferred to another court.
US Appeals Judge, 96, Suspended In Rare Clash Over Fitness (Reuters)
Colleagues Want A 95-Year-Old Judge To Retire. She’s Suing Them Instead. (Washington Post)