by Dennis Crouch
This week, the Federal Circuit disclosed further documents from a special committee established to evaluate the potential removal of Judge Pauline Newman from active duty due to a suspected mental or physical disability that could affect her judicial capabilities. The order, dated May 16, 2023, gives a more comprehensive discussion on concerns about Judge Newman’s performance, including signs of memory issues or confusion and diminished productivity. The document also outlines an investigation involving requested medical assessments and records, which Judge Newman has declined to provide.
The committee, formed on March 24, 2023, and comprising of Chief Judge Moore, Judge Prost, and Judge Taranto, is tasked to scrutinize the complaint, deliver their findings, and propose recommendations. Successive orders on April 7, April 17, and May 3, 2023, commanded Judge Newman to undertake a neurological evaluation and neuropsychological testing, backed unanimously by the council members based on noticeable changes in her mental sharpness. Judge Newman opposed the mandated examinations, arguing that she should have the right to choose the medical professionals conducting them and that these examinations should have boundaries.
The May 16 order reiterates the need for these examinations in light of substantial evidence suggesting a possible disability that might inhibit Judge Newman’s judicial functions. The document then elaborates on the concerns expressed by court employees about Judge Newman’s competence. Reports from employees from various departments, including the Clerk’s Office, IT, HR, and Judge Newman’s chambers, highlight issues like memory lapses, confusion, paranoia, and inability to execute simple tasks. Notably, it details frequent accusations from Judge Newman about her email and computer being hacked, and her phones being bugged, as well as difficulty with everyday tasks such as logging into the court system, misplacing court documents, and forgetting information. The Judge has also shown confusion regarding court rules and struggled with mandatory security awareness training. These issues suggest significant cognitive impairment, according to the order, warranting a medical examination.
The document further mentions that “two out of five members of Judge Newman’s staff have recently resigned and have requested to have no further contact with Judge Newman.” It adds that “Judge Newman threatened to have a staff member arrested and removed from the building,” and another staff member “asserts her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination when asked about her role and responsibilities in the chambers, based on her lawyer’s advice.”
- May 16, 2023 Order
- May 16, 2023 Redacted Order
- May 9, 2023 Letter
- May 3, 2023 Judicial Council Order
- May 3, 2023 First Redacted Order
- May 3, 2023 Second Order
- April 21, 2023 Letter
- April 20, 2023 Redacted Order
- April 17, 2023 Redacted Order
- April 13, 2023 Redacted Order
- April 7, 2023 Redacted Order
- April 6, 2023 Redacted Order
- March 24, 2023 Redacted Order