Staff for a 95-year-old federal judge say she is 'losing it, mentally' and talking to a dead colleague
Judge Pauline Newman says her fellow appeals judges are trying to force her off the Federal Circuit.
But in a new decision, a staffer is quoted saying Newman is "simply losing it, mentally."
She claims she's been "hacked" when she can't find a file or email, the decision quoted staff saying.
A special federal appeals court says one of its judges, 95-year-old Pauline Newman, may no longer be mentally fit for the job.
Pauline Newman, who has been on the Federal Circuit appellate court since the 1980s, claimed in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that her fellow judges are trying to push her off the bench. She said they have made baseless demands that she sit for neurological evaluations.
But in a new decision, the court said IT and human-resources staff, as well as people in the judge's own chambers, have claimed she has become "paranoid" and "agitated" and made nonsense claims about her phone being "bugged" and her email being "hacked." She allegedly threatened to have a staffer arrested and claimed to have communed with a judge who passed away in 2006.
"One staff member relayed a recent episode in which Judge Newman indicated that she was not required to comply with a court rule… because Chief Judge Markey told her she could take 30 days to vote," the decision said. "Chief Judge Markey has been dead for almost 17 years and has not been a member of the court for 32 years."
“One staff member stated, ’Though it is difficult to say this, I believe Judge Newman is simply losing it mentally,’” the decision said.
John Vecchione, a lawyer with the New Civil Liberties Alliance who is representing Newman, wouldn't address the specifics of the decision. But he said he objected to the Federal Circuit both investigating and ruling on the allegations against Newman.
"Obviously, removing a judge has a constitutional aspect to it that Congress has to be involved in, and that process has not even been invoked here," he said.
Two spokespersons for the Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee didn't respond to inquiries Wednesday morning.
Her peers say Judge Newman has slowed down
Over the years, Judge Newman has established a reputation as a prolific dissenter, frequently and openly disagreeing with her colleagues on issues of patent law. Patents, a hyper-technical area of law, are often at the crux of high-stakes disputes involving companies like Apple and Intel with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in royalties on the line.
She's also one of the oldest judges on the bench not to have taken senior status, an example of the aging of America's most powerful government officials that was chronicled in Insider's series "Red, White and Gray." Recently, 89-year-old California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has raised questions about her competence by appearing to be unaware of her own votes or where she has been. The typical federal judge last year was 68 years old.
The judges investigating Newman said allegations about her interactions with staff weren't the only thing that needed to be evaluated. It cited data from the clerk's office to argue that Newman is taking too long to rule on cases and publishing fewer opinions than her fellow judges.
In one case, she sat on a decision for more than 600 days before it was quietly handed off to another judge who took just a month to rule on it, the opinion said. Judge Newman's lawsuit claimed that data was cherry-picked and said she remains active.
The ruling, issued by three judges, including Chief Judge Kimberly Moore, said it wasn't ruling on the truth or falsity of what the staff members claimed, but said Newman has to comply with the court's investigation. They ordered her to make arrangements for a neurological and neuro-psychological exam by May 23 and to sit for a videotaped interview in early June.
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