After being disallowed from hearing additional cases on the grounds of “mental fitness” by a group of her peers, the oldest serving US federal judge has clapped back with a federal lawsuit against her suspension.
Judge Pauline Newman, 96, appointed in 1985 by then-US president Ronald Reagan, has been suspended by her colleagues on the Federal Circuit’s Judicial Council for alleged physical health frailty and failure to cooperate with an investigation into “reasonable concerns” about her mental fitness.
Newman claims Chief Judge Kimberly Moore told her she must take senior status which she said was “ridiculous.”
After her suspension, Newman filed a federal lawsuit against her fellow judges in May, claiming: “I never had a heart attack, never fainted, wasn’t hospitalised as Chief Judge Moore said, and apparently told all the judges on my court that I was disabled, not able to move around and not able to think straight.”
During an interview with the New Civil Liberties Alliance — a nonpartisan nonprofit civil rights organisation — Newman, said she felt she “should not succumb or set a pattern of judicial colleagues to be able to bully, intimidate and force out a colleague they don’t like.”
The senior judge has stated that she is mentally and physically fit to continue her role and has obtained independent evaluations from two doctors.
She has expressed her frustration at her colleagues’ decision to destroy her reputation and remove her opportunity to decide cases, stating that she cannot understand why they have decided to do so.
However, the Judicial Council says they reached their decision after conducting more than 20 interviews with court staff that highlighted “significant mental deterioration including memory loss, confusion, lack of comprehension, paranoia, anger, hostility, and severe agitation.”
“Judge Newman has been having trouble recalling events, conversations, and information just days old and having trouble comprehending basic information that court staff communicate to her,” the council wrote.
As federal judges are appointed for life and do not have to retire at any given age, lawyers for Newman claim her suspension is illegal and are seeking review from a committee overseeing judicial conduct.
According to Daily Mail, Newman’s lawyers argue that the committee could have investigated the allegations earlier, but Chief Judge Moore and her committee have focused on keeping Newman “off the bench through raw power, without statutory requirements, constitutional limits, due process, conflict of interest rules, or fairness.”