A 96-year-old appeals court judge was suspended over concerns about her mental ability to continue serving.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit made the controversial decision concerning Judge Pauline Newman on Wednesday.
— Reuters (@Reuters) September 20, 2023
"A council of judges on the Washington, D.C., court unanimously said Newman had failed to cooperate with an investigation into her fitness and barred her from hearing new cases for at least one year or until she sits for court-ordered medical examinations," Reuters reported.
"We are acutely aware that this is not a fitting capstone to Judge Newman's exemplary and storied career," the council said, but added it had no choice when "a judge of this Court is no longer capable of performing the duties of her judicial office."
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Wednesday suspended Judge Pauline Newman from hearing new cases amid a deepening clash over the 96-year-old jurist's mental competence to serve on the bench. https://t.co/9vAEBwLj4Y
— NEWSMAX (@NEWSMAX) September 21, 2023
"Such a public and contentious internal dispute over competency is highly unusual in the federal judiciary," Newsmax reported.
"Newman has defended her fitness, citing the opinions of two doctors, and filed a lawsuit in a separate Washington court seeking to move or halt the investigation," it continued.
NEW: The Federal Circuit’s active judges have suspended 96-year-old Judge Pauline Newman for one year as punishment for not submitting to medical testing as part of an investigation. https://t.co/zLeCAjUkKC
— Bloomberg Law (@BLaw) September 20, 2023
"The proceeding has been unprecedented in its public nature, with judicial disability investigations almost always unfolding behind the scenes," Bloomberg Law noted.
"But several scholars have predicted that such probes—whether public or private—could become more frequent as the average age of federal judges climbed to 69, as calculated in a 2020 law review article on the topic," it stated.
Newman was first appointed to the Federal Circuit in 1984 by then-President Ronald Reagan but has reportedly shown signs of impairment in recent months that have led to the challenge.
The judge's attorney claims the move is political, seeking to keep Newman out of power.
The case may be appealed but for now Newman is off the bench for future cases in a situation that could soon apply to other aging judges or lawmakers in the U.S.