| 29 November 2023, Wednesday |

U.S. appeals court judge faces rare probe into competency, misconduct

According to court authorities of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a federal appeals judge in Washington is being investigated by her own court for allegedly failing to carry out her duties and neglecting to respond to other judges’ complaints.

A three-judge committee decided that Judge Pauline Newman, 95, may “suffer from a disability that interferes with her ability to perform the responsibilities of her office,” according to an order issued by Federal Circuit Chief Judge Kimberly Moore.

Newman is also under investigation for misconduct for refusing to cooperate with the probe or submit to a medical evaluation, Moore said in the order, dated Thursday.

Newman and Moore did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

In an earlier order in March, Moore said Newman had shown signs of cognitive and physical impairment, delayed filing opinions, disclosed sensitive medical information to her staff and allowed one of her law clerks to exhibit unspecified “unprofessional and inappropriate behavior.”

The March order said that half of the court’s active judges expressed concern about Newman’s mental fitness. Newman had refused to consider senior status, a form of semi-retirement, calling herself the only person on the court “who cared about the patent system and innovation policy,” the order said.

Newman is a leading intellectual property law jurist and a prominent dissenter on the patent-focused Federal Circuit, which often hears major cases involving technology and pharmaceutical companies. She was appointed to the bench by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

The March order said Newman has participated in 60 cases since June of last year, while the average active judge participated in 116.

The Federal Circuit acknowledged the probe in a Friday statement. It said court officials “all recognize and admire the lifelong contributions of the justly esteemed Judge Newman,” and “are committed to fulfilling their difficult obligations in this process.”

  • Reuters