On Friday, March 8, 2024, a committee of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit argued before a federal court that their decision to suspend a 96-year-old colleague for alleged health issues was constitutional.

The committee, known as the judicial council, is made up of the active judges serving on the Federal Circuit. They filed a submission with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia defending the suspension of Pauline Newman, who has served on the Federal Circuit since 1984. Newman is suing the council to reverse her suspension.

In their filing, the council argued that Judge Newman’s constitutional challenges to her suspension should be dismissed. Last year, the chief judge of the Federal Circuit said Newman showed signs of cognitive and physical impairment and refused medical exams. This led to Newman’s one-year suspension, which she is appealing.

The filing maintained the laws governing Newman’s suspension did not violate the Constitution as she claimed. While acknowledging suspensions could potentially be unlawful in rare cases, the council contended Newman had not proven the laws were invalid in all situations.

Previously, a federal judge dismissed most of Newman’s initial claims against the judicial council last month but allowed her challenges to the laws’ constitutionality to proceed. With both sides now having submitted their arguments, the courts will decide whether Judge Newman’s suspension violated her rights or was a lawful response to alleged impairment issues.

Judge Newman, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, is a highly respected figure in patent law and known for her dissenting opinions.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.