Judge Pauline Newman, a 96-year-old federal judge appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit by former President Ronald Reagan in 1984, has been suspended from her seat after she refused to undergo medical testing. This suspension comes after concerns were raised about her mental fitness, as she has reportedly been having trouble recalling recent events and comprehending basic information.
The decision to suspend Judge Newman was made by a judicial panel of her colleagues, who argued that they had “reasonable concerns” that she “suffers from a disability preventing her from effectively discharging the duties of her office.” The council claims to have conducted more than 20 interviews in their investigation, which led them to believe that Judge Newman may be experiencing significant mental problems.
This suspension, which will last for one year, has sparked a legal battle between Judge Newman and her colleagues, as she has accused them of baselessly claiming that she is unfit to serve in order to push her out of her position. She asserts that she is mentally and physically capable of continuing her duties as a federal judge.
Known for her dissenting opinions, Judge Newman has been praised throughout her nearly 40-year career as a judge. She served on a presidential committee that helped create the Federal Circuit in 1982 and has been called the “heroine of the patent system.”
The issue of aging politicians and officials serving in key positions has been raised in recent years, with concerns about their mental and physical capabilities. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, recently raised concerns after freezing mid-sentence during a press conference for the second time in front of reporters. Meanwhile, Senator Dianne Feinstein, 90, has faced health struggles and mental lapses, leading to her extended absence from D.C. to recover from the shingles virus. President Joe Biden, 80, has also faced criticism for multiple incidents of falling, appearing lost, and having difficulty speaking coherently in public appearances.
Despite these concerns, Judge Newman’s lawyers argue that she was evaluated by two independent physicians who determined she was mentally fit to continue serving on the bench. They argue that her colleagues have no basis to require her to undergo additional testing or question her abilities.
Ultimately, the suspension of Judge Newman raises important questions about how the fitness of aging politicians and officials is evaluated, especially as the average age of Congress and the White House continues to increase. As the legal battle between Judge Newman and her colleagues unfolds, it will be interesting to see how this issue is addressed and how it may impact future decisions about the fitness of older officials to hold important positions of power.