America's Oldest Federal Judge Suspended for a Year

Colleagues accuse 96-year-old Pauline Newman of being unfit to serve
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2023 7:25 AM CDT
America's Oldest Federal Judge Suspended for a Year
Judge Pauline Newman poses in her office in Washington, on May 3, 2023.   (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via AP)

The oldest active federal judge in American history has been suspended amid a clash with colleagues on the court she helped create. The United States Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit, a relatively obscure court with jurisdiction over areas including patent law and government contract, has barred 96-year-old Judge Pauline Newman from hearing new cases for at least a year, Reuters reports. The Federal Circuit's Judicial Council voted unanimously to suspend Newman, saying there are concerns about her mental fitness and she has refused to undergo medical testing. Federal judges are appointed for life, with no mandatory retirement age.

The council, made up of Newman's fellow judges, said interviews with court staff suggest she suffers from "significant mental deterioration including memory loss, confusion, lack of comprehension, paranoia, anger, hostility, and severe agitation," the AP reports. The council said she has "been having trouble recalling events, conversations, and information just days old." Newman, who has been suspended since the investigation began earlier this year, denies that she is unfit to serve and has filed a lawsuit seeking to have the probe halted or moved to another court. Her lawyers say doctors have determined she has "no substantial emotional, medical, or psychiatric disability."

Newman, a former patent attorney, was appointed to the court by former President Reagan in 1984 and has written more than 300 dissenting opinions. She says the allegations are "false or grievously distorted" and her colleagues are violating the Constitution by trying to force her out. "I feel that I can make a contribution and must. That's what I was appointed to do," she told the Washington Post in June. "We are acutely aware that this is not a fitting capstone to Judge Newman's exemplary and storied career," the council said Wednesday, per Reuters. The council said, however, that it has no choice but to act when a "judge of this Court is no longer capable of performing the duties of her judicial office." (Read more federal judges stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.