On Tuesday, June 20, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an order scheduling the date of the hearing for the case of the Honorable Pauline Newman, a Federal Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit who was complained for her alleged incapability to fulfill her judicial duties. The order states that a special committee composed of Chief Judge Moore, Judge Prost, and Judge Taranto has narrowed the focus of the investigation to determine whether Judge Newman’s refusal to undergo medical examinations, provide medical records, and sit for an interview constitutes misconduct.

On May 10, 2023, Honorable Pauline Newman initiated legal proceedings before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. This action was filed against Hon. Kimberly A. Moore, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, along with several other justices. The filing comes as a response to a formal complaint lodged by Hon. Moore against Judge Newman, raising concerns about her ability to fulfill her judicial duties effectively.

The crux of Hon. Moore’s complaint revolves around an allegation that Judge Newman demonstrates an excessive delay in issuing opinions, which, in turn, negatively impacts the efficient functioning of the justice system. In her complaint, Hon. Moore asserts that she possesses reasonable grounds to believe that Judge Newman may be incapable of fulfilling her responsibilities adequately. Additionally, Hon. Moore cites accounts from fellow colleagues and individuals associated with the court who have expressed concerns about Judge Newman’s overall competence to serve in her current judicial capacity.

In response, Judge Newman underscored that both the prevailing statutes and the codes of conduct do not confer upon the Chief Judge, acting independently or any judicial council of a circuit, the power to issue orders or directives that would impede the assignment of cases to an active Article III judge in their customary sequence during the pendency of an ongoing investigation.

The report states:

“Judge Newman emphasized that neither the existing laws nor the rules of conduct grant the authority to the Chief Judge acting alone or any judicial council of a circuit to issue orders or directives that would prevent an active Article III judge from being assigned cases in the regular order while an investigation is still ongoing.

Additionally, Judge Newman stated that the ongoing investigation into her conduct violates the fundamental principles of due process. The reason is that the special committee responsible for the investigation is comprised of individuals who are potential witnesses to the alleged disability of Hon. Newman. According to the latter, this raises concerns about the fairness and impartiality of the investigation process.”

Following this response, the court instructed that Judge Newman should promptly cooperate with the committee’s inquiry and address the concerns raised regarding her cognitive abilities. Despite asserting that she does not suffer from any impairment, the court noted that Judge Newman should meet with an independent neurologist and neuropsychologist chosen by the committee for appropriate examinations. According to the court, it is crucial to ensure that judges handling cases are mentally fit, and when serious concerns arise, they must be taken seriously and addressed expeditiously.

The investigation, initiated on March 24, 2023, has expanded several times since then. It includes potential misconduct related to Judge Newman’s disclosure of a confidential employment dispute matter, her refusal to comply with orders requiring medical testing, and her alleged abusive behavior toward court staff. Despite the ongoing investigation into Judge Newman’s potential disability, her refusal to cooperate has hindered the committee’s ability to reach a conclusive recommendation.

In response to the investigation, Judge Newman’s counsel has requested clarification on the issues to be addressed in the briefing and argument. They have also requested that the argument scheduled for July 13 be open to the public. However, the committee has decided to uphold the confidentiality rule established by the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980 and keep the argument closed to the public. The committee believes that allowing public access could inadvertently disclose confidential information and compromise the investigative process.

The investigation into Judge Newman’s alleged misconduct remains ongoing, with the committee expecting Judge Newman to file a brief by July 5. While other aspects of potential misconduct are still under consideration, the committee has chosen to focus on Judge Newman’s refusal to cooperate in order to expedite the proceedings and provide a conclusive recommendation to the Judicial Council.

The outcome of the investigation and the committee’s findings will have significant implications for Judge Newman’s career and the perception of judicial conduct. The public will eagerly await further developments in this case, which highlights the importance of transparency and cooperation in the legal system.

The Order states:

“Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED THAT: (1) The hearing scheduled for July 13, 2023, at 2:00 p . m. shall not be open to the public ; (2) In response to Judge Newman’s request, pursuant to Rule 23(b)(7), this order as well as Judge New- man’s June 15 Letter will be publicly released.”

Judge Newman sits as a Federal Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit located at 717 Madison Place, NW, Washington, DC 20439, and can be reached at (202) 275-8000. Her info can be found on Ballotpedia.org.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.