At 95, US Federal Circuit Judge Pauline Newman, who was appointed by president Ronald Reagan, is the oldest sitting federal judge in the United States.
Now, some of her colleagues — worried about her mental competency — say it’s time for her to go.
But Newman is fighting back, sparking an ongoing legal fight around her refusal to step down from the lifetime post.
She filed a suit earlier this month challenging a complaint by a panel of fellow justices that she is no longer able to discharge her duties because of “mental or physical disability.”
Newman insisted she remains fully capable of handling cases and is as productive as other members of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
She also accused the judicial panel seeking her removal of violating the US Constitution, which gives only Congress the power to impeach judges.
Newman has served on the court since 1984. She is a leading authority on intellectual property law, the author of rulings in several landmark cases.
But on Tuesday a three-judge judicial committee brushed aside Newman’s objections and cited several examples of what they said were her diminished capacities.
“Multiple court staff members have reported concerns that Judge Newman cannot remember from day to day how to perform simple tasks such as logging into the computer network,” they said.
“Numerous personnel who interact with Judge Newman in the course of the court’s business have raised concerns about her comprehension, confusion, short term memory loss, agitation, and lack of focus,” they added.
The panel ordered Newman to meet with a neurologist who would assess whether she suffers from a cognitive impairment and to submit to a “full battery of neuropsychological testing.”
It gave her until May 23 to inform the committee whether she will comply or face disciplinary action.
“The litigants whose rights are at stake in the cases before this court deserve to have confidence that the judges ruling on their cases do not suffer from a cognitive impairment,” it said.