Fri, 01 Dec 2023

Washington, D.C.: This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit suspended 96-year-old Judge Pauline Newman from hearing new cases, amid a row over her mental competence to serve on the bench.

According to a council of judges on the Washington, D.C., court, Newman had failed to cooperate with an investigation into her fitness.

The court also unanimously barred her from hearing new cases for at least one year or until she undergoes court-ordered medical examinations.

"We are acutely aware that this is not a fitting capstone to Judge Newman's exemplary and storied career," the council said, adding that it had no choice when "a judge of this court is no longer capable of performing the duties of her judicial office."

Citing the opinions of two doctors, Newman defended her fitness and filed a lawsuit in a separate Washington court to reverse her ban.

Newman's attorney Greg Dolin, said the council was "ignoring data or information or opinions that are inconsistent with its predetermined goals and outcomes."

The oldest active U.S. federal judge, Newman was appointed to the patent-focused Federal Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

In orders made public in April, the Federal Circuit's chief judge, Kimberly Moore, accused Newman of refusing to cooperate with inquiries into her mental health and said that she showed signs of cognitive and physical impairment.

Documents released in August also cited court employees describing Newman as suffering from "memory loss, confusion, paranoia and angry rants."

Newman's attorneys have argued that her own court should not preside over the competency investigation and said that the committee investigating her fitness was "interested in one thing and one thing only - keeping Judge Newman off the bench via the exercise of raw power."

U.S. Circuit Judge Edith Jones, a friend of Newman's on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, called the Federal Circuit tribunal "inherently biased," adding she hoped the "responsible parties in the Judicial Conference," the judiciary's national policymaking body, would intervene.

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