by Dennis Crouch
The Federal Circuit Special Committee has released a 100+ page report that recommends Judge Pauline Newman be suspended for her refusal to comply with the committee’s order that would permit an independent doctor conduct a mental or physical examination. The proposed suspension for “one year or until she complies.” This report will be delivered to the Judicial Council that will make its own decision. I expect that the Judicial Council will agree with the sanction.
The committee consisting of Chief Judge Moore, former Chief Judge Prost, and Judge Taranto concluded that it had authority and a reasonable basis to order medical examinations and records from Judge Newman. And, her refusal to cooperate constitutes misconduct with no good cause shown. Her arguments attempting to justify her refusal were each addressed and rejected by the committee.
Most pointedly, Judge Newman had provided her own medical report purporting to show her competence. The committee rejected that report as inadequate — giving it “no weight”:
- Source of Expert: The neurologist was chosen and engaged by Judge Newman herself, rather than being an independent expert selected by the Committee. This raised concerns about impartiality.
- Limited Scope: The report indicates only a limited examination was performed, not the comprehensive medical and mental health evaluations ordered by the Committee.
- No Opportunity to Question: The Committee and its experts had no ability to question the doctor, assess credibility, or probe his evaluation methods.
- Incomplete Conclusion: The report concludes there is no disability, but does not seem to thoroughly evaluate Judge Newman’s mental fitness to fulfill her judicial duties.
- Contrary Evidence: The report appears to ignore or downplay the contrary evidence of cognitive issues cited by the Committee.
In essence, the Committee found the report lacked credibility and thoroughness. Judge Newman had raised additional issues:
- Due Process and Recusal: Judge Newman argued the proceedings violate due process and required judicial recusal. The committee found they follow appropriate procedures and do not violate any of Judge Newman’s rights.
- Bias Arguments: Judge Newman alleged bias by the Judicial Council and Committee. The committee found no evidence of bias in the Council’s actions to suspend case assignments or the Committee’s prior orders.
- Staffing/Resources Arguments: Judge Newman claimed she was deprived of necessary staff and equipment. The committee found no merit to these arguments.
- Transfer Request Arguments: Judge Newman requested the matter be transferred to another circuit. The committee found no basis for such transfer.
- Cooperation Arguments: Judge Newman asserted she has cooperated and the orders were defective. The committee found she clearly refused to undergo medical exams and that the orders were proper.
- No Reasonable Basis Arguments: Judge Newman argued the committee lacked reasonable basis for orders. The committee pointed to staff concerns, case delays, and expert recommendation as providing reasonable basis.
Newman’s separate lawsuit in D.C.Circuit seeking a declaratory judgment has not really moved. The Special Committee indicated the view that their process was the proper venue rather than district court.
* The image above comes from the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA) that was given to Judge Newman by her neurologist. MOCA-Test-English. It was only partially completed because she had a broken wrist at the time and so was not able to trace the dots, draw the cube, or draw the clock.