On Wednesday, September 20, 2023, the Judicial Council of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a suspension order in the ongoing investigation into allegations that Judge Pauline Newman may no longer be able to fulfill her duties due to potential mental or physical disability. The Council had been examining reports from court staff and others indicating that Judge Newman, 96, was exhibiting signs of memory loss, confusion, lack of comprehension, and other cognitive issues interfering with her work.

On March 24, Chief Judge Kimberly Moore formally identified a complaint against Judge Newman and appointed a special committee to investigate concerns about her mental fitness and delays in issuing opinions. The complaint cited evidence of memory loss, confusion, and inappropriate behavior toward staff. It also noted Judge Newman’s lightened workload and lengthy delays in resolving cases despite the reduced workload.

Chief Judge Moore said she had tried to resolve the issues informally with Judge Newman by providing her with a draft complaint and requesting to meet, but Judge Newman refused.

The Special Committee began promptly interviewing court staff. By April 7, after multiple interviews, the Committee determined Judge Newman should undergo medical examinations. Judge Newman did not respond to the April 7 order requiring her to undergo examinations. After she continued not to comply, the scope of the investigation expanded on April 13 to include whether her refusal constituted misconduct.

Additional orders were issued in April seeking medical records and requesting Judge Newman sit for an interview with the committee. She objected to complying.

After receiving Judge Newman’s objections, the Committee issued a new order on May 16 detailing the extensive evidence from staff interviews supporting its requirement for medical examinations and records. The order explained the examinations were recommended by the Committee’s independent medical consultant. On May 25, Judge Newman refused to comply with the May 16 order. The scope of the investigation expanded again to cover her refusal.

On June 1, the Committee narrowed the focus to whether Judge Newman’s refusal to comply constituted misconduct. Judge Newman did not request an evidentiary hearing to contest the evidence against her. On June 5, the Judicial Council ordered Judge Newman be suspended from new case assignments due to her extraordinary delays in issuing opinions.

The Committee held a hearing on July 13 about Judge Newman’s refusal to comply. She did not contest the specifics of the staff complaints but argued she could run her chambers as she wished. On July 31, the Committee publicly released a report finding overwhelming evidence supported the need for testing and that Judge Newman’s refusal constituted serious misconduct. According to the Committee, the conduct of Judge Newman, which impeded the progress of the Committee’s investigation, cannot be overlooked or addressed with a mere minor sanction that a judge with lifetime tenure might disregard. Instead, the Committee asserted that the appropriate measure to underscore the severity of this matter is the temporary suspension of all case assignments for a designated period

On September 20, the Judicial Council issued a unanimous order finding Judge Newman committed serious misconduct by refusing to comply with the examination order. Her refusal thwarted the investigation into potential disability. The order suspended Judge Newman from new case assignments for one year, subject to renewal if she continues to refuse to comply. The suspension can be lifted if she complies with the examination order.


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