Judge Pauline Newman, a Ronald Reagan appointment who has served on the court for over four decades, maintains that she is still mentally and physically capable of making legal decisions despite her advanced age and accuses her colleagues of bringing false accusations against her.
A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled Wednesday that a 96-year-old judge should sit on the bench on indefinite leave because of concerns about her mental fitness to serve.
It’s the latest salvo in a lawsuit that has pitted judges against each other and escalated an already public and heated dispute over Judge Newman’s continued tenure on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC.
The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals. Cases involving government contracts, patents, and trademarks are heard there. There is no set retirement age for federal judges appointed by presidents and confirmed by the Senate.
The Judicial Council of the Federal Circuit, which includes Newman’s fellow judges, announced her suspension because of “concerns” that she has disabilities that prevent the effective discharge of “the duties of her office.” They also cited her refusal to cooperate with an investigation into her mental fitness.
After a year, the Judicial Council may renew the suspension if she still refuses to cooperate, or it may be lifted if she changes her mind. According to her lawyer, Greg Dolin, she has been barred from hearing new cases since April, when the investigation into her conduct began.
After Newman declined to quit in response to demands from Chief Judge Kimberly Moore, her attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against her fellow judges in May.
Interviews with court personnel revealed “serious mental degeneration,” according to the Judicial Council.
They claimed she was confused, prone to paranoia and anger, and had comprehension problems.
Judge Newman “has been having problems recalling events, discussions, and information merely days old” and “has been having trouble grasping fundamental facts that court employees transmit with her,” the council stated.
Similar charges have been made against Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90.
She still serves in the Senate.
Joe Biden, 81, has been under scrutiny for failing mental acuity. He is running for the presidency in 2024.