Judge Pauline Newman, 96, barred from hearing cases - Breaking News

Judge Pauline Newman, 96, barred from hearing cases

A 96-year-old U.S. federal appeals court judge was barred Wednesday from hearing cases for a year after a panel said she refused to undergo medical testing amid concerns that she is no longer mentally fit to serve on the bench.

It’s the latest development in an unusually public and bitter fight over whether Judge Pauline Newman should continue to serve on the Washington-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that has sparked a lawsuit and turned judges against one another.

Newman, a President Ronald Reagan appointee who has been on the court for nearly four decades, insists that she remains physically and mentally fit to decide matters of the law, and has accused her colleagues of making baseless claims in an effort to push her out because of her age.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is one of 13 U.S. appellate courts. It hears cases on issues like government contracts, patents and trademarks. Federal judges chosen by presidents and confirmed by the U.S. Senate are appointed for life, and there’s no mandatory retirement age.

The Federal Circuit’s Judicial Council, which is made up of Newman’s colleagues, said the suspension was necessary because the longest-serving judge on the court won’t cooperate with an investigation into her mental fitness despite “reasonable concerns” that she “suffers from a disability preventing her from effectively discharging the duties of her office.”

Judge Pauline Newman
Federal Judge Pauline Newman has been barred from hearing cases over concerns about her mental fitness.

The Federal Circuit’s Judicial Council
The Federal Circuit’s Judicial Council barred Judge Newman after she refused to cooperate with an investigation into her health.

 Judge Pauline Newman
Judge Pauline Newman denies that she is mentally unfit.

The Judicial Council’s order said the suspension could be renewed after a year if she continues not to cooperate, or could be rescinded if she decides to comply. The decision suspended her from hearing new cases, though there are no old cases either because was already suspended since April amid the investigation, according to her attorney, Greg Dolin said.

Dolin said they will be seeking review from another committee that oversees the judicial conduct nationwide. He said they believe the sanction is “flatly illegal,” and that the process has been seriously flawed.

“The Judicial Council has been willing to grab onto as fact any allegation to support what appears to be a predetermined conclusion,” he said.

“Instead, Chief Judge Moore and the committee she appointed have been interested in one thing and one thing only — keeping Judge Newman off the bench via the exercise of raw power unconstrained by statutory requirements, constitutional limits, any notions of due process, conflict of interest rules, or even basic fairness,” they wrote.